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…)
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 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…)
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…)
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…)
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?
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
At least, according to this Nanos poll:
The survey asked Canadians what they would like to see done with the Senate. Respondents were overwhelmingly against the status quo, with 49 per cent supporting reform of the Senate and 41 per cent preferring it be abolished. Just six per cent said leave it as is, while four per cent were unsure.
The random survey of 1,000 Canadians was conducted between June 8 and 11..Participants in the survey were randomly recruited by telephone and administered a survey online. The margin of error for a random survey of 1,000 Canadians is plus (Read more…)
The Senate has been much in the news lately, with the expense troubles of a few Senators – compounded by the mishandling of their investigation – bringing much negative attention to the other place. While this is really a scandal about Stephen Harper’s decision-making and the style of governance he fosters, a serious and real national debate about the Senate’s place in our democracy is long overdue.
It’s easy to look at the shenanigans and say just abolish the thing. The NDP wasted little time in making that case. I think the misdoings of a few Senators is a poor (Read more…)
Premier Kathleen Wynne is taking the opposite position of what Dalton Mcguinty advocated: instead of abolition, she is for reform of the Senate:
Kathleen Wynne, says she sees real value in having a chamber of sober, second thought and would like to see it reformed. Wynne says the discussions of just how to reform the Senate is something she would like to have with the other provincial premiers.
It is a big blow to those who wish to kill the Senate – regardless of whether it takes 7 provinces with 50 % of the population, or unanimous consent (that issue (Read more…)
Your latest poll from Forum Research on what should be done with the Senate:
“More than one third want to abolish the Senate. An additional 37% called for the Senate to become an elected body. Less than 10% felt it best to leave the Senate as is. The latest results are consistent with an earlier Forum poll on the Senate, which was conducted before the scandal gained traction. Those February results also show the majority split between abolition and reform.”
I’m in the electoral reform camp, as you may know from reading here. Consequently, I disagree with Justin Trudeau (Read more…)
By Obert Madondo | The Canadian Progressive, Feb. 18, 2013: In, 2004, Stephen Harper described Canada’s Senate as a “dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the Prime Minister.” He also said: “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.” Today, none of READ MORE
Advocates of Senate reform (particularly direct election of Canadian Senators) have taken to citing Australia’s Senate as evidence that elected and democratically legitimate Senates are compatible with well run societies (here, here and here). They should desist, unless they are prepared to advocate for an actual Australian model Senate, which is quite different from the one they are proposing for Canada.
Australia’s Senate is Elected by Proportional RepresentationThis is almost certainly the most important difference. Canadian Senate reformers are advocating Senators be elected by Province in the same manner we elect House members – first
. . . → Read More: Autonomy For All: Canadian Senate Reformers Should Not Cite The Australian Senate
I decide when …
The third debate is over. No-one blew their brains out. No-one surprised the audience. The race will be decided by March 4, when each of the candidates will be able to compare the number of supporters they signed up in each of the 308 ridings, calculate that number as a percentage of the total members and supporters signed up in each such riding, multiply that percentage by 100 to get their probable share of the riding’s vote, and add these all together. So by the afternoon of March 4 rumours will be sweeping the country about vote counts come the official election day in April. But between now and March 4 are a few more debates, lots of signup steps, media interviews, journalist comments, and bloggers waxing eloquent. (Read more…) . . . → Read More: CuriosityCat: The Liberal leadership race is between Trudeau and Murray, with a 2014 early election
Calls for reform represent a stealth effort to foist a radical new form of government on an unsuspecting Canadian public.
Aside from the cost (about $90 million per year) and the recent scandals about residency and private life criminal behaviour, the real threat the Senate poses is that it has (mostly) equal formal constitutional powers to the House of Commons. The only thing that keeps them from acting like a co-equal chamber of our national legislature is that they know they lack public support and legitimacy to do so. What if that changed?
That is what Harper’s attempts to
. . . → Read More: Autonomy For All: The Sensible Path: Abolish the Senate
For years, one of the few things that I have agreed with Harper has been on the issue of Senate reform. I don’t necessarily agree on all the details, and I think the NDP’s idea of abolishing the senate over reforming it holds some merit, but to the general spirit that there is something seriously wrong with the Canadian Senate I could not agree more. It is ineffective and costly, stuffed full of partisan patronage appointments with little hope for any third parties; all points, incidentally, that Harper has made in the past.
Yet it has been with something of
. . . → Read More: Progressive Proselytizing: Will Brazeau provide the needed momentum for Senate reform?
Ideas to reform the Senate seem to be the Canadian version of the Holy Grail. This week, you’ve seen not calls for reform, but calls to abolish it with the behaviors coming to light of a couple of Harper-appointed Conservative Senators in the form of Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau.
I’m against abolition – I think the Senate can perform its constitutionally designated role – helping to represent the provinces as it was intended to do if it was given some legitimacy, and the patronage appointment power of the Prime Minister (or technically the Governor-General) removed. Of course, that means