Thursday, May 19, 2011

Even Losers are Winners

Source: CTV News: Harper Appoints 3 Defeated Candidates to Senate

On a day when a new cabinet was selected, which should have been the major political issue of the day, Stephen Harper has sparked off a different conversation by appointing three 'new' Senators, from his roster of defeated Conservatives candidates.

Larry Smith and Fabian Manning were former Senators, both of whom resigned their seats in the Senate in order to make runs for seats in the House of Commons. Both were also soundly defeated in their attempts to win seats in the Commons. Then you have Josee Verner, a former cabinet minister taken out by the NDP in the election, who was also appointed to the Senate.

Needless to say, numerous people have taken objection to these appointments, most notably members of the NDP opposition.

Harper is defending the appointment by using his usual stance of saying he needs to stack the Senate in order to reform it. Yet the Conservatives have had a majority in the Senate for awhile now and there has been no moves to reform the upper chamber. Why?

Well, who would step forward and take steps that would eliminate their own job? Chances are the Liberals in the Senate will not support reform, and a few of the older Conservatives won't as well. Not to mention a few of the newer Conservatives who hope to sit long enough to develop a strong pension plan for when they retire from the Senate.

Effectively, you can't expect the Senate to want to reform itself given that any vote for reform means costing the current senators money and benefits that they currently enjoy and would lose to the reform.

Furthermore, we come to the issue of the appointments themselves. All three of these appointments are defeated candidates. That means that Canadians had a chance to elect them to our democratic process, but they were rejected from the opportunity to serve. As such, for Harper to then turn around and appoint them to the Senate is (as some NDPers have said) a slap in the face to Canadians.

We may not directly elect Senators, but given that these are candidates who were defeated in a general election, I think it's clear that Canadians don't want these three people playing a role in the governance of Canada. For a Prime Minister who kicked up a storm about respecting the will and votes of the people during the election campaign, Harper is showing his hypocritical roots with this move.

Add to that the fact that two of these 'new' Senators were former Senators who resigned before the election...And well, there's questions that need to be asked. Clearly, these two people knew that they could run an electoral campaign and lose yet still retain a job in Ottawa. If Harper truly respected Canadians, he would not have invited these two back to the Senate.

An argument for experience can be made, at least in the case of Fabian Manning, but Larry Smith only served as a senator for a number of months and as such does not really have the experience argument supporting him. However, there is a potential silver lining: These two are now political dead weight.

Smith and Manning, who clearly have ambitions to sit in the House of Commons, have shot themselves in the foot by accepting a return to the Senate. Come the next election, it would be unlikely that Canadians would elect either of them as candidates; given that all of us know that if they resign again to run for the Commons, they'll simply end up back in the Senate if they lose.

The other silver lining is this type of appointment could make Canadians consider senate reform more seriously. Many have suggested that this will provide fuel for the NDP argument to abolish the Senate; while Harper himself suggests that it will allow him to push through the idea of a Triple-E senate and other reforms.

Either way, Canadians should be asking questions and we might be able to start a real debate on an issue that seriously needs to be addressed.Link

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