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The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Harper Tries To Foment A Crisis

Harper has taken a surprising number of losing cases to the Supreme Court of Canada.  Most, if not all, were obviously places where the government’s position is one that is in direct contradiction with the Constitution of Canada.  Even a relative neophyte in Constitutional law in Canada can spot that, whether it is Harper’s desire to “reform” the Senate or the government’s daft position on prostitution.  

Now we have the CPC caucus starting to trot out the “undemocratic” talking points. Dan Albas, the MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla, says that while he respects the courts he also believes an increasing number (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Mr. Harper: Can You Even Read?

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear that Harper doesn’t know how to read a legal decision.  Yesterday, in Question Period, Harper said the following: “The Supreme Court has ruled in its wisdom that the federal government can neither abolish the Senate nor, in fact, can the federal government actually propose reforms — significant reforms — to the Senate,” Harper said in the House.

This is complete nonsense.  The Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Government cannot unilaterally alter the Senate.  In other words, the Supreme Court ruled that changes to the Senate require the government to work in the (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: A Failed Puppet Master?

In a withering assessment of Stephen Harper, that is the conclusion Andrew Coyne seems to draw in his National Post column:

We are so heavily invested, we media types, in the notion of Harper as master strategist, able to see around corners and think seven moves ahead and what not, that we tend not to notice how many times he has been screwing up of late. The sudden and more or less complete rewriting, on the same day as the Supreme Court decision, of the colossally misjudged Fair Elections Act, after weeks of waving off any and all criticism (Read more…)

Scott's DiaTribes: Worth repeating on the Supreme Court Senate ruling

As those of you who follow politics in Canada know, the Supreme Court of Canada told Stephen Harper on Friday that if he wanted to either reform (7 provinces/50% of pop) or abolish (unanimity + Senate agreement) the Senate, he needed to do something he hates doing – build a consensus with the provinces.

That ruling led him to petulantly declare that any meaningful reform or thoughts of abolition of the Senate was dead, and that the SCOC had ruled in favour of the status quo that no one wanted.

That led Athlia Raj, who is a correspondent at Huffington (Read more…)

Montreal Simon: The Incredible Humiliation of Stephen Harper and Pierre Poilievre

Golly. I don't know who looked more more beaten or more pathetic today, Stephen Harper or Pierre Poilievre. It was too close to call.But what is certain is that both were humiliated beyond belief.Harper slapped in the face by the Supreme Court, and sent crashing to the canvas.

Stephen Harper threw in the towel on Senate reform Friday after the Supreme Court slammed the door on his hopes of a quick fix for the scandal-plagued upper house. His hapless stooge Poilievre forced to walk like a burro backwards on his Unfair Elections Act.Read more »

Bill Longstaff: Don’t give up on the Senate, Mr. Harper

It wouldn’t be surprising if Prime Minister Harper was in a bit of a funk over the Supreme Court’s decision on the Senate this week. The Court unanimously rejected his government’s attempt to transform the Senate into an elected body and to set term limits, saying that such basic changes require the consent of at least seven provinces and half of Canadians. For Mr. Harper, this was fifth straight

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: What The Senate Ruling Says About Harper

The Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling on the Senate Reform questions that Harper put to them last year came out today.  The ruling itself is not terribly surprising, but what is more interesting is Harper’s reaction.

Harper said he had no option left after the high court concluded that no major change can be made to the much-maligned Senate without a constitutional amendment supported by most or all the provinces. 

That’s a politically risky and potentially divisive route that Harper has no intention of taking. 

“We know that there is no consensus among the provinces on reform, no (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Strike 4: Harper Cannot Unilaterally Reform The Senate

The Supreme Court issued their ruling on the Senate Reform Consultation questions that Harper put before them last year.  

In a unanimous decision released Friday, eight judges of the top court concluded that implementing fixed terms for senators or provincial elections for Senate candidates would require the consent of seven provinces representing half the population. The government had asked whether it could legislate these changes on its own.

On the key question of how the Senate could be abolished, the court said the consent of all the provinces would be necessary. 

The only reform the government can (Read more…)

Progressive Proselytizing: Predicting a timeline for Senate reform

Historically, big changes in governance often occur in a period of rapid debate and change, following a long period of relative inaction while structural pressures build. For the Senate, the problems regarding the institution have been clear for a long time, but prospects for change have been dim. Complaints about the system and the occasional proposal for change are uttered here and there, but they didn’t command centre stage.

In the last year, however, there has been a confluence of factors that make the prospects for change increasingly likely. Firstly, Harper won a majority government. A long time critic of (Read more…)

CuriosityCat: The Senate: Will Mulcair’s rabbits and doves flee in all directions as Mulroney’s did?

Constitutional twins?

Thomas Mulcair gives the impression that he relishes the views of some of him as a tough guy. In Question Period, faced with a cornered Prime Minister Harper who has to appear (sometimes) and answer questions (even if with non-answers), Mulcair is the diligent, remorseless, forceful, and effective cross examiner. He shows that he has done his homework. He shows that he fears not his wily opponent. And he shows his obvious enjoyment in the detailed, meticulous and vast interchange of the minutia of political give and take and policy discussions. This is a man who revels in (Read more…)

Progressive Proselytizing: A brilliant tactical move: Justin Trudeau kicks out Liberal Senators

Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due: Justin Trudeau just pulled a brilliant tactical move with his unexpected and unceremonious dumping of all former Liberal Senators from the Liberal caucus. As a political analyst, I often am rather unimpressed by the blunders and lack of political acumen from politicians. So setting aside whether this is good or bad thing for the state of Canadian democracy, this post is just about the tactics.

The perennial problem for opposition leaders is that there is little they can actually do. They can huff and puff about what the government’s leaders (Read more…)

daveberta.ca - Alberta politics: Five ways to save the Senate of Canada

Tweet Is the Senate of Canada broken? And if so, is it worth saving? Here are the positions held by Canada’s federal political parties: 1) Abolish the Senate The New Democratic Party of Canada, the official opposition since 2011, are staunchly in favour of entirely abolishing the Senate of Canada. “Unelected party hacks have no […]

Northern Reflections: A Force To Be Reckoned With

Yesterday, Justin Trudeau gave Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair migraines. Micheal den Tandt writes:

In one bold, risky and unexpected gambit, Justin Trudeau has turned the national debate about the Red Chamber on its head, blasted a crater-sized hole in the Conservative government’s strategy to sell its version of Senate reform, and forced NDP leader Tom Mulcair to play catch-up on his marquee issue.

Trudeau knows that the Supreme Court will rule that the Senate cannot be reformed without the participation of the provinces. He also knows that Harper doesn’t negotiate with the provinces. He knows too that, while (Read more…)

A BCer in Toronto: Trudeau’s Senate play a bold stroke. But what’s next?

I think everyone was surprised by Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s move this morning – particularly 32 Senators – that he was removing all Senators from the Liberal parliamentary caucus, and that as Prime Minister, he would only appoint Senators selected through a non-partisan review process. (Read Trudeau’s statement: Ending partisanship and patronage in the Senate) Let me break down my reaction into two areas: the politics, and the policy. The Politics Politically, this is a brilliant move. For a leader who has been unfairly accused of lacking policy substance, here is bold, substantive action. For an issue – Senate (Read more…)

Scott's DiaTribes: So this thing happened in the Senate today..

If anyone predicted this was going to happen today, I’m going to them to ask what numbers I should pick for the lottery:

Justin Trudeau has expelled from his caucus every single Liberal member of the upper house and has declared there is no longer any such thing as a Liberal Senator. The Liberal leader said the former members of the Liberal Senate caucus will sit as Independents, and they will have no formal ties to the Liberal parliamentary machinery apart from through their friendships…The move stunned both Liberal senators and senior Liberal Senate staffers, who had not been formally (Read more…)

Impolitical: Liberal reformers

A few thoughts here on today’s announcement by Justin Trudeau that Liberal Senators will no longer be part of the Liberal caucus and are now to sit independently.

One of Trudeau’s lines that stood out for me was this one: “At our best, Liberals are relentless reformers.” Recently, on the death of Jim Coutts, an opinion piece he wrote in 2004 was circulated, and in it, we found this: “The current policy markers of the Liberal party have evolved over time and are fairly familiar to many Canadians. The most crucial Liberal markers are these: Reform, which is so (Read more…)

BigCityLib Strikes Back: LPC Senate Change: The View Of A Tory Insider

Keith Beardsley is a Tory insider.  Smart guy.  Not obviously insane.  His angle on Justin’s shock announcement this morning is surely worth noting:

It will…be interesting to see how the Conservative Senate caucus responds. How many of them will decide they would now like to become independent like their former Liberal colleagues? If enough Conservative senators decide to sit as independents it will change the dynamics of getting legislation through the upper house. The government side would be faced with convincing individual senators of the merits of legislation, rather than being able to demand loyalty to pass legislation.

As (Read more…)

Calgary Grit: Liberals Lose Half Their Caucus Under Justin Trudeau’s Leadership

It’s rare that something happens in Ottawa that truly surprises everyone. Despite having spent the last year talking about the senate over and over again, it’s safe to say very few saw this coming:

Trudeau leads on Senate Reform: Liberal Leader takes concrete action to remove partisanship and patronage from the Senate

OTTAWA – The Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement:

“Canadians expect their leaders to be open and honest with them, and they expect us to come forward with practical solutions that address problems directly. The Senate, through extreme patronage and (Read more…)

Calgary Grit: 2014: Year in Preview

We don’t know what will make headlines in 2014. After all, most political predictions are about as accurate as a Forum poll.

So I won’t try to guess how 2014 plays out, but here are a few things we can reasonably expect to see this year:

With the new electoral map coming into force, all parties will begin nominating candidates, as they gear up for the next election. And since the media loves election speculation, there will no doubt be more rumours of the 2015 election being moved up to 2014 – though I can’t imagine Harper would want to (Read more…)

Progressive Proselytizing: A Scandal in Two Institutions: The Senate Half

What has become known as the Senate Scandal is really a scandal in two institutions: the Senate, of course, but also the PMO. The PMO half of this scandal was written here. What follows is the Senate half of the scandal:

One of the advantages of living in a (relatively) functioning first world democracy is that we are (relatively) unburdened by the kinds of systemic corruption that plagues other polities. Cases of direct financial payoff – suitcases full of cash changing hands in empty parking lot in exchange for political favours – is relatively low. Where in countries with far (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: On Bullying and Thuggish Behaviour In Canada’s Politics

As a human being, I see Rob Ford as a tragic character.  The man is so obviously in over his head it’s not even funny.  His closest advisors and family have enabled his proclivities for substance abuse, and I would go so far as to suggest that he may well be little more than the puppet on the throne rather than the master of his actions.

As a Canadian, I am appalled by the Fords and their behaviour in the last few weeks.  It is not that their behaviour is embarrassing to Canada – it is, but that is secondary (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Shorter Coyne On Senate Reform: Give All The Power To The PMO

In the wake of this week’s Supreme Court Hearings on the Senate Reform consultation questions that the Harper Government posed last spring, the National Post’s Andrew Coyne has postulated that the provinces shouldn’t be part of the amending formula.

The government’s lawyers have gamely maintained that much of tis short-term agenda for Senate reform – term limits, consultative elections and so on – could be pursued unilaterally.  At the other extreme, abolition, they submit, could be achieved under the Constitution’s general amending formula:  seven provinces with 50% of the population. 

The consensus view is that the feds are out (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: On Senate Reform

The notion of a referendum on Senate abolition has been percolating around more publicly again.  This isn’t necessarily a bad idea in itself.  As I pointed out back here, it really doesn’t matter if such a measure were passed in a public referendum.  Harper still ends up obliged to work within the framework of the General Amending Formula to make the changes required.

Where the Senate is concerned, I’m no fan of abolition.  While I am no fan of its current form – it has long ago become a tool of political patronage.  Although there are some excellent Senators (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Why Harper Will Never Reform The Senate

Protestations aside, Harper will never reform Canada’s Senate.

Harper’s 45-minute remarks included only a brief reference to the main political headache that has shaken his party since May, the Senate expense scandal. He did not acknowledge the coverup allegation that has kept the controversy in the headlines. 

The party leader blamed the “courts” for standing in the way of Senate reform. He appeared to be referring to a recent Quebec appeal court ruling — the Supreme Court of Canada has yet to give its opinion on how to achieve change in the upper chamber. 

The appeal court (Read more…)

Scott's DiaTribes: Apparently, the courts are the new enemy of Senate reform

So says the Prime Minister to his party faithful at their Calgary convention:

“We were blocked by the other parties in the minority parliaments, and now we are being blocked in the courts,” said Harper in a lengthy keynote speech to the Conservative party faithful Friday night….Harper’s designating “the courts” as an enemy appeared to stem from a decision last week by the Quebec Court of Appeal, which ruled reforms such as elections to select senators or term limits could not be legislated unilaterally — as Harper had proposed.

In essence, anyone or any group that tells Stephen Harper (Read more…)