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18 new Conservative senators?


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Harper vows to name 18 new senators

As Tories eye a Red Chamber majority by 2010, opposition wonders what happened to promises of reform

From Friday's Globe and Mail

December 12, 2008 at 4:17 AM EST

OTTAWA — Conservatives are on pace for a Senate majority by 2010 as Prime Minister Stephen Harper drops his objection to Senate appointments and vows to fill all current vacancies by Christmas.

Faced with the possibility of losing power next month to an opposition coalition, Mr. Harper's office says the soon-to-be-appointed Tories are the party's best hope of delivering on Senate reform given the current political context.

Veteran activists for an elected Senate supported the announcement, saying the government is right to be concerned about how the coalition would fill the 18 vacancies.

"If the coalition or a Liberal government came to power, it would kill the prospects of Senate reform for at least a generation," said Roger Gibbins, president of the Canada West Foundation.

Liberals and New Democrats said the Prime Minister's announcement amounts to a shocking reversal for the leader of a party that has vowed not to appoint unelected senators.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said the government's move reminds him of the famous line from Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney, who embarrassed his Liberal rival John Turner with the line: "You had an option, sir."

Mr. Mulroney was criticizing Mr. Turner for refusing to reverse a flurry of Senate appointments made by prime minister Pierre Trudeau in his final days in office.

"It's a bit of a shocker, in a way, that Mr. Harper would come and reverse himself completely on the Senate," Mr. Layton said.

A government official said the Prime Minister remains committed to an elected Senate. "[but] as long as the Senate exists in its present form, Senate vacancies should be filled by a government that Canadians elected, not a government that Canadians rejected."

The Liberal-NDP coalition, supported by the Bloc Québécois, has not backed down from talk of ousting the Conservative government when Parliament resumes in early 2009.

Tories say they want to avoid the possibility that the 105-member Senate gets filled with members opposed to Senate reform - or with separatist leanings.

Conservatives have repeatedly suggested the coalition would appoint Bloc senators, even though Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe said he has specifically asked the Liberals not to do so.

All vacancies will be filled by individuals willing to sit as Conservatives and willing to support legislation requiring Senate elections and term limits.

However, the 18 Tories will not be required to commit to a specific term, meaning they could remain in the Senate until the mandatory retirement age of 75.

During the 2006 campaign, Mr. Harper attempted to assuage concerns of a possible Conservative majority government by citing the Liberal-dominated Senate.

"The reality is that we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service - at least senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals - and courts that have been appointed by the Liberals," Mr. Harper said at the time. "So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government."

Conservative Senator Bert Brown, who was elected in an Alberta referendum and appointed by Mr. Harper last year, says he's disappointed he was personally not able to persuade other provinces to follow Alberta's lead by electing Senate nominees.

Mr. Brown noted that with 12 more senators set to turn 75 next year and another two in 2010, the Conservatives are just months away from being able to ensure a majority in the Senate through appointments.

"It was a necessary evil right now to fill the vacancies so the Senate could function properly," Mr. Brown said.

*****

Please take a seat

If Stephen Harper sticks with his just-announced intention to pack the Senate with Conservatives, he will fill all 18 seats now vacant with Tories and do the same with 12 more in 2009 that become vacant by manadatory retirement at age 75. Then in 2010, he could do the same with two more empty seats.

SENATE SEATS BY PARTY

Independent (4)

Progressive Conservative Party (3)

Conservative Party (20)

Other (1)

Independent NDP (1)

Liberal Party (58)

Vacant_seats (18)

BY PROVINCE/TERRITORY

Total Filled Vacant

B.C. 6 3 3

Alberta 6 6 0

Sask. 6 5 1

Man. 6 6 0

Ont. 24 22 2

Que. 24 20 4

N.B. 10 8 2

N.S. 10 7 3

PEI 4 3 1

Nfld. 6 5 1

Yukon 1 0 1

NWT 1 1 0

Nunavut 1 1 0

Total 105

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i heard a Liberal on TV last night saying that for the Senate to work properly, they need more butts in seats, regardless of what party they are. The dude (and I wish I could remember who it was) was saying that the existing Senators were so swamped that any new additions would drastically help get them out from under the massive backlog they face.

But that was just one dude.

There was another article today about how, on the day after the economic update, the Tories appointed 25 people to patronage appointments.

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yeah, workload is what the dude said. he said the senate is pretty much just treading water. maybe they should work more, that's what i have to do.

but sometimes spreading the work around a little more helps just as much.

i don't have an opinion on this, just reporting what i heard.

except i agree with canophish that harper is a fuckwad.

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i work with a guy from Greece. given all of the strife happening over there, it was amusing to hear him say, "Wow, things are really fucked up here in Canada right now".

It is unbelievable to me that there aren't regular pickets and protests at this moment outside 24 Sussex Drive...Harper put the government to sleep during a global economic crisis...we as citizens of this country, should make sure that he doesn't receive one minute of sleep until Parliament gets back to business.

He has failed as a Prime Minister. He has failed as a party leader. He has failed as a Canadian.

Yet, as we're so often referred to, most Canadians are apathetic and one day, which may come soon, our collective apathy could take a massive bite out of our great country.

Yes, that's what is needed at the moment...to fill the empty senate seats... :crazy:

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Harper's Senate move may be a necessity

Stephen Harper's decision to appoint the biggest one-time contingent of senators to the Upper House is first and foremost another case of the Prime Minister doing what is probably the right thing for the wrong partisan reasons.

Notwithstanding the government spin, it is not a move forced upon Harper by the unexpected threat that an opposition coalition could use its highly hypothetical time in power to fill the Upper House with opponents of Senate reform.

That's just circumstantial sugar-coating to make the bitter pill of Harper's latest unkept promise easier for the Conservative rank-and-file to swallow.

A tentative list of Senate appointees was actually in the works long before the current parliamentary crisis materialized. Harper signalled his intention on the morning after the Oct. 14 election.

Would-be senators certainly took notice. They have been lobbying the government hard every since.

But by the same token, the move is not just the blatant attempt to stack the Senate on the eve of a possible defeat of the government that the opposition is portraying.

Sending 18 Conservatives to partisan heaven will not shift the balance of power in favour of the government in the Upper House. And 12 more vacancies will be opening up in 2009, giving any incoming Liberal government ample opportunity to bolster an already healthy Senate majority.

In some ways, the Conservative appointments are actually overdue. In the end, the Senate as an institution will be better off for them.

Like it or not, the Upper House is an essential part of the legislative apparatus. And it is best able to acquit itself of its constitutionally mandated duty when there is adequate representation on both sides of its chamber.

That is not the case now.

For 15 years and with only one or two exceptions, Senate appointees have been Liberals. The party holds a solid majority of 58 seats in the 105-member house.

Their long exile from power, combined with the Prime Minister's refusal to fill most vacancies over his first mandate, have reduced Conservative ranks to only 20 senators, less than one for every two of the opposition.

As a result, government resources are stretched beyond the limit. For lack of Conservative members to sit on committees, the Senate is operating on half of its ancient cylinders.

Harper drove the Upper House to this dysfunction by holding out on appointments long after it became obvious that his plans for an elected senate were dead in the water.

On that score, the fact that there is not enough opposition support for the Conservative reform in the minority Parliament is a bit of a red herring.

Should Harper or one of his successors go ahead with a unilateral plan to reform the Senate, a number of provinces will head to the courts.

In the best-case scenario, a settlement of the issue could be years of constitutional litigation away, whether the Prime Minister asserts control of both houses of Parliament or not.

But meanwhile, Parliament needs to continue to function.

In the circumstances, the potential addition of extra Liberal senators that Stéphane Dion unwisely alluded to earlier this month would have amounted to compounding a wrong with another wrong.

Painting the Senate a deeper shade of red would have made it so one-sided as to trump the legislative dynamics for years to come.

Frankly, the last thing the Liberals need at this juncture is a caucus where senators outnumber MPs.

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Pam Wallin, eh? I knew the CBC was a Liberal news organization!

Don't forget that they snuck a judge in there too... shhh... don't tell the opposition MP's that Steve said could vote on the next judicial appointment.

Ah yes, the reformers...

"And I will remake this country in MY image because it's what you want!"

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Harper must go. What a douche.

This could be seen as a sign that Harper knows his days are numbered as he once again is taking a 180 degree change in direction on his own statements.

He is a douche. During a time when the economy is collapsing and our country is struggling he has acted like a coward and has only looked at what he could do for himself and his party...screw the rest of Canada...

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