Last week, with two simple Senate appointments, Stephen Harper and his Conservatives gave themselves an early Christmas present: majority control of the Senate, along with the ability to use their own unelected Upper Chamber to push their legislative agenda.
It promises to be a challenging time.
Why? Because, even before his party had a full Senate majority, the Tory senators were taking full opportunity of their numbers to do things like kill a climate bill passed by a majority of Canada’s elected politicians in the House of Commons: you can only imagine where the latest majority will take the happy crew.
Harper has said the most recent appointments will be invaluable in passing government legislation: “Their skills and experience will be invaluable as our government works to pass legislation that is important to the well-being, safety and security of Canadians.”
Yes, that’s exactly what the chamber of “sober second thought” is supposed to do — rubber-stamp away.
Remember, this is the same prime minister who said in 2004, “I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent.”
Those comments were in reaction to the regular appointment of Liberal hacks to the Upper Chamber.
But since gaining the reins of power, Harper’s own hacks have found comfortable new homes, complete with $132,300 paycheques and a host of perks that still aren’t properly audited.
Take this snippet from the Postmedia news service, describing Harper’s actions since the days when he used to complain about the Liberals’ appointment of political “cronies” to the Senate: “Among Mr. Harper’s appointments are: his own former press secretary (Carolyn Stewart Olsen); the former chief fundraiser for the Conservative party (Irving Gerstein); the former Conservative party president (Donald Plett); the Quebec co-chair for Mr. Harper’s 2004 Conservative leadership bid (Judith Seidman); the national campaign director who ran two of Mr. Harper’s federal elections, including the one that vaulted him to power in 2006 (Doug Finley); and several defeated Tory candidates who were rejected by voters when they sought a seat in the House of Commons.”
His two most recent appointments? Larry Smith, who is expected to run for the Tories in a Quebec riding in the next federal election, and Rev. Don Meredith, who ran as a Conservative candidate in the 2008 election against Liberal Bob Rae — and lost.
Did the Liberals pack the Senate with hacks? Absolutely.
Are the Tories doing any better? Maybe it’s time Harper looked in the mirror — he might see the blunt ends-justify-the-means political pragmatism of Jean Chretien staring right back at him.
Imagine, for a moment, if the Tories lost the next election (something that at the moment seems unlikely).
Given the experience thus far with backtracking on Senate appointments, do you think it’s likely that the Conservatives would use their Senate majority to frustrate legislation duly passed by the House of Commons?
Experience comes up with only one answer: you bet.
Actions speak louder than words.
An editorial from the St. John’s Telegram.