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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…)

CuriosityCat: 2015: The ballot question in Canada’s next election?

Methinks John Ivison has hit the nail right on its head with this:

If the Auditor-General’s report does suggest a systemic problem of corruption and abuse, who would bet against the Conservatives using the Senate as a classic wedge issue, pointing out that the Liberals are in favour of preserving the country’s most expensive eventide home as is.

One approach could (Read more…)

. . . → Read More: CuriosityCat: 2015: The ballot question in Canada’s next election?

A BCer in Toronto: Harper’s credibility, the evening news and life outside the Commons

The mistake many politically aware and involved people make is believing everyone follows the ins and outs of every political development as much as they do. They don’t. People are busy. They have other priorities. Believing that everyone shares their anger is a mistake partisans too routinely make. Most Canadians, for example, don’t watch Power and Politics or Question Period (sorry Evan and Don). Many of them do, however, watch their local evening news. What my extended family knows about current events, they get there. Myself, I watch CTV Toronto’s 6pm newscast most nights, having long ago resigned myself to (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: More On Duffy and Conservative Corruption

I must admit that while I really don’t much like Mike Duffy and the seemingly endless stream of evidence of corruption with him at the root of it is fatiguing to read about all the time, it is still an important issue. I am not going to argue about Senate Reform in this post – I remain unconvinced that the Duffy/Wallin/etc expenses scandal really points to an urgent need to overhaul the Senate – in fact, I am much more of the opinion that framing the expenses scandal in those terms is a red herring intended to distract the public (Read more…)

Scott's DiaTribes: Referendum on Senate? Only if it includes all options – including a “reform” one

Michael Bliss, Professor at U of T, argues in the Globe today that the Senate must be abolished, and lays out why it can’t be reformed.

I’ll put aside that part of the argument for now; what I’m interested in is how he feels abolishing the Senate would be any easier then reforming it as an elected body. He argues that it should be put to a vote in a national referendum, and if the consenus is to abolish – dare the provinces who oppose abolishing it to stand against a referendum vote. He doesn’t think they will, they’d be (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: The Rot Starts At The Top

Regular readers of this space will know that I am no fan of Prime Minister Harper.  

Yesterday’s revelation that a “boot camp” for new Conservative Senators explicitly told the new Senators that partisan travel was a legitimate expense makes me downright furious.

Three former Conservative senators at the heart of a spending scandal were given clear directions from their leader in the upper chamber that they could bill for certain partisan — that is, political — travel when they first arrived in the Senate. 

The directions were given during a two-day “boot camp” for new Tory senators that (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: The Legitimacy Of Harper’s Senate Appointees

With the latest set of revelations in the ongoing Senate Scandal, we find out that Senator Wallin spends the majority of her time living in Toronto. Frankly, I don’t much care where Ms. Wallin lives.  That is largely her business – except for that part of her life where she is being paid a rather sizeable sum of money by taxpayers to be a Senator representing Saskatchewan.  (I certainly haven’t seen any declaration making Ms. Wallin’s residence in Toronto a part of Saskatchewan, have you?) So, now we have Mike Duffy, allegedly representing PEI who lives in Ottawa, Pamela (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: On The Ongoing Senate Scandal

As the summer wears on, more keeps dribbling out about the misdeeds of various Senators.  Whether we are talking about Wallin, Duffy or Brazeau the outrage that we direct towards these senators for their individual misdeeds should be directed in equal measure towards the man currently residing at 24 Sussex Dr. in Ottawa – Stephen Harper.

Remember, the key figures in this scandal were all appointed by Harper, and two of them served key roles during the 2011 election campaign – a period when it is suspected that Duffy was billing the Senate for the bulk of the travel (Read more…)

A BCer in Toronto: Even if it could, Senate reform shouldn’t proceed without the provinces – or the people

To the surprise of everyone in the Ottawa bubble, Her Majesty’s Minister of State for Democratic Reform, Pierre Poilievre, held a press availability Wednesday not to slam the Liberals for some alleged sins, but to actually speak to an issue of policy substance: the government’s Supreme Court reference on Senate reform. The minister discussed the factum the government has presented to the court outlining its position, marking the first time the words “Pierre Poilievre” and “factum” have appeared in the same sentence. The government has put several questions to the court, essentially seeking clarity around what reforms Parliament can (Read more…)