Monday, January 11, 2010

As With Crime Legislation, So Too With Senate Reform

I've been arguing forever that the bulk of Harper's "tough on crime" legislation isn't meant to pass. Andrew Potter thinks (and I think I agree with him) that the same is true with Senate reform legislation:

I have a column in the Citizen today arguing that if Harper is serious about Senate reform, the appointments process is the place to focus his attention. Except I don’t actually think that Harper cares about Senate reform one way or another; like abortion in the US, it is one of those useful issues that Conservatives in Canada use to keep their base on a low boil. They are always just about to do something about it, though they never seem to get there. Senate reform for Harper is a tactical device, not part of a serious strategic agenda.

And I would just point out, that if the prorogation is meant to advance Harper's intention to begin electing senators and to set eight-year term limits, it as already failed. There's already a rogue among Harper's new appointees:

Newly minted Conservative senator and former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers says he has much to learn and more to prove.

In an interview with Sun Media, he revealed he could have been a Liberal senator, has only a peripheral interest in politics and no intention of asking electors for their support -- in spite of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's assertions new senators should run for office.


Demers expects to spend the next 10 years in the Senate, and wants to learn from his colleagues while keeping his own opinions.


D said...

What an apt observation and analysis BigCityLib.

What would the CPC be with the Senate reformed? What would their platform look like if all their crime bills passed (assuming they even produced a platform in the first place)?

Victimhood is one of the chief characteristics of the CPC/CA/Reform base. If they are no longer the victim, then who are they? They're Liberals.

Furthermore, by letting his own crime and reform bills die, Harper is taking his arrogance to new heights: all the hard work his MPs put in will be undone, but no worry, once we win a majority we'll do it all again!

Harper is so confidant that he'll win a majority that he's willing to throw out all the business of the 40th Parliament of Canada and start-over fresh in the 41st.

I say, Harper has already begun the work of progressives by killing his own bills. Let's not give that bastard the pleasure of returning to 24 Sussex with even a third minority.

Gayle said...

One of Harper's problems with advocating Senate reform is that at some point he is going to have to identify his goal. If you ask conservatives what that goal is you get various answers.

Some people believe he is gunning for TripleE. Others say there is no way he is advocating a TripleE because the larger provinces will never put up with that.

Then there is the problem of an elected Senate without any renegotiation of the imbalance. Alberta is already under-represented in the Senate, but it is no big deal right now because the Senate pretty much passes every bill it gets. What will happen once the Senate is elected? They are no longer going to just pass bills. They might even start rejecting them? What happens if there is a majority of one party in the House and a majority of another in the Senate?

Suddenly provinces that are over-represented are going to have a lot more clout than those that are under-represented.

CPC supporters need to start thinking things through. They also need to start demanding Harper tell them what his end game is.

I am not opposed to Senate reform, but this is a serious issue and requires serious discussion. Harper is playing a dangerous game here.

It is interesting to note the province that will end up losing the most is the one where his base is housed.

Skinny Dipper said...

First, I thought Demers would only serve eight years, not ten. I guess I won't buy that Harper's appointees will only serve eight years.

Next, you imply and I agree that Harper has no long-term vision for a reformed Senate. What kind of senate does Harper want to see? Will it be a Triple-E Senate or one where bigger provinces have more seats than the smaller one. Either way is fine by me. What powers will a reformed Senate have?

Harper will continue to propose his temporary Senate reform proposal of the PM appointing provincially elected nominees knowing full-well that this will never go through as his next prorogation will start the whole Senate reform process all over again.

Ti-Guy said...

I have always had a hard time believing Parliament would be improved by introducing greater numbers of the type of people who are attracted to electoral politics: narcissists, careerists with more ambition than talent, sleazy power brokers and horse traders, various and sundry whores and whore-masters, over-earnest do-gooders with low IQ's and a coterie of minor parochial celebrities somnambulating through life.

Reform the Senate, abolish it, leave it won't make any difference.

We'd be much better off if we started electing journalists. Let the various groups that want to run things organise themselves and elect the people who are paid to watch over them and report on them.

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

No argument from this Conservative on those two points.

While I'm not about to hand the reins to Ignatieff, "tough on crime" legislation is completely misguided (but supported by Ignatieff btw) and the stacking of the Senate without ANY effort to actually seek to 'reform' it is also misguided.

We are learning, quite clearly, that the "Reform" Party has, oddly enough, evolved into the very thing it was set up to remove. Business as usual in Ottawa.

Or. Maybe when they said "Reform", what they meant was "Re-form" as in the PC Party.

Welcome to the new old reality - Conservative-lite.

Northern PoV said...

You are all dead-on and I especially agree with Gayle's observations.

Ti-Guy: "We'd be much better off if we started electing journalists."

Novel idea - OK I agree but only if we have an absolute ban on the ultimate electoral-democracy-killer: polling!

Gayle said...

I agree with Potter's suggestion in his column in the citizen.

We should vet appointments to ensure they are appointments for merit.

I would go further and suggest we ban all party affiliation from any Senator. Make it non-partisan.

Oemissions said...

If he was smart, he would appoint Elizabeth May, for one.

Ti-Guy said...

OK I agree but only if we have an absolute ban on the ultimate electoral-democracy-killer: polling!

What's so ingenuous about polling is that most of the polls we're exposed to are commissioned (paid for) by the media and survey opinion (not knowledge or behaviour), which is then used to argue that whatever group or sectary is the focus (either government, political parties or public institutions...rarely business) is deficient in some manner. Which in turn, gets those groups to react in ways that may have nothing to do with reality or what the people might really want or don't want or care or don't care about.

Ti-Guy said...

I agree with Potter's suggestion in his column in the citizen.

I make it a point never to agree with Andrew "Always Wrong" Potter.

Politics is not that dilettante's strong suit. I think pop culture is really the vocation he's been searching for for so long.

Tof KW said...

Of course senate reform is just a carrot Harper's been waving to his base. There is next to nothing he (or any other PM) can do without discussions with the 10 premiers and re-opening the constitution. The best he can hope for is the 8-year term limit, but that's about it. But he'll use it (just like BS 'tough-on-crime' legislation, and scrapping the long-gun registry that all police want kept in place) because it keeps his base in line and CPC donation $$$ rolling in.

Great editorial in today's KW Record on this very topic, and interesting to see how often senate reform has been used by past floundering governments including Trudeau in 1978.

Senate reform a desperate move by desperate governments