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A weak argument

On this holiday Monday for most people, I was going to take a crack at Jason Kenney’s ridiculous assertion about how Senate reform could be achieved by the provinces magically holding elections, but I see BCL has already beaten me to it, so go read him and one of the problems he sees with the assertion.

I’ll add some personal commentary though; suck it up, Mr Kenney and Mr Harper. If you really want Senate reform with an elected Senate in some form, you must open constitutional talks with the provinces and get it passed using the 7/50 general amending formula rule. Sure, it may not pass, but brave leaders will risk that if they believe strongly in their cause. Mr Trudeau tried a couple of times unsuccessfully before the 1982 repatriation of the Constitution with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms happened. Heck, I didn’t agree with what Mulroney was trying to do with Meech Lake or Charlottetown, but at least he showed some courage and conviction in his beliefs to try and get these initiatives passed. Harper – and by extension his ministers like Jason Kenney – are openly admitting they’re too afraid to try that and want to do it via some legal backdoor method.


7 comments to A weak argument

  • That backdoor method may be legal but wouldn’t last. I worry about Harper opening the Constitution because it is such a trial by fire, I don’t think anyone can forsee how he would handle it and what he would concede.

    I do like how you questioned Harper’s courage, it attacks this pragmatic Conservative government on a value conservatives hold dear. Though I worry, I am quite sure Harper does lack the courage to actually open the Constitution.

    • ck

      Scott: What he (Stevie Spiteful) was trying to do, wrote Lorraine Weinrib, was to reconstruct his own constitutional framework. The current constitutional framework, she noted, is vague and informal, and rests on principles and practices inherited from the United Kingdom. It is vulnerable to a leader with an authoritarian bent. “While Harper touts the democratic principle as his ideal,” she wrote, “his actions align with another principle–an all-powerful executive that makes its own rules on a play-by-play basis.” (Harperland, Chapter 14, Surviving the Coalition, pg 188)

      Anything is possible.

  • TofKW

    Loraine Lamontagne wrote:
    An agreement between Harper and Charest would be quite feasible

    I doubt that because the two personally hate each other. Yes Charest is a Tory, but he’s a Progressive Conservative (former PC leader and Mulroney’s old sport minister back in the day), and because he’s more of a centrist the Harper government was actively screwing him over by openly supporting Mario Dumont and the ADQ during Quebec’s minority parliament period.

    Incidentally, this is another example of the Harper government being incompetent. When you’re the federal government, you are not supposed to meddle in provincial politics like that, with the exception of undermining the separatist PQ maybe? The reason is simple, you need to be able to work with the provinces regardless of party politics. Especially in cases like senate reform that require re-opening the constitution …that is if you’re serious about senate reform.

    • ck

      Actually, TofKW, Harper, has somehow succeeded in muzzling Charest somehow. Charest is not nearly as much fun anymore. Far more complacent with Harper these days.That was apparent in the last election campaign when we compare to the 2008 election campaign. Weird things are happening, not the least of which was that bang on timing of that Old Harry (long disputed) deal Quebec signed with the feds just before the writ was dropped but after the budget was tabled.

  • Savant

    So what would prevent a PM (any PM) from simply ignoring the results of a senate ‘election’? Nothing. Quite true. However, just because something isn’t written in stone, doesn’t mean it won’t be respected. This is where it falls to the public to hold their elected MPs to account. It’s no different from a government breaking any promise.

    Furthermore, having an elected senate would mean the end to any one party dominating the senate. That includes the Conservatives. If Harper is allowed to continue to stack the senate until the next election, then assuming he loses that election, it would take two full majority governments by other parties to tip the senate balance away from Conservative rule. One 4 year term wouldn’t be enough to tip the balance back, even after one majority term, the Tories would still dominate the senate.

    People are missing the point that an elected senate actually WEAKENS the Tories. I don’t see why they would object to that.

  • Loraine Lamontagne

    One point to add to CK’s: I think Charest could and would be able to get this through the National Assembly – definitely not on a unanimous vote! – and if not Charest now, then, ce sera remis à la semaine des quatre jeudis… Trudeau ran into problems with René Lévesque, but Mulroney got along very well with Robert Bourassa. An agreement between Harper and Charest would be quite feasible, IMO. However, the risks would not be strictly and mostly come from Quebec, but I would imagine could collapse in the same manner as Meech.

  • ck

    Quebec, alone, is already problematic, since we’ve never signed any constitution in the first place.

    Would Jean Charest be open to bringing in elections to elect senate appointees here? He might. However, we’re due to go to election sometime in late 2012-early 2013. Could Charest bring this kind of thing on time? Me thinks no.

    Charest is likely to lose the next election and the PQ is likely to get in either with a majority or minority, depending if Francois Legault’s new movement manifests itself into a political party before the next election.Neither of whom would be likely to view federal senate reform as high on their to do list. Oh, to Marois, the senate appointments are abominable, but to her, instead of fixing it, it’s another example of why federalism doesn’t work. Legault doesn’t want to talk constitution anymore.

    Another problem with Jason Kenney and Margie Le Breton’s little ‘elected senate’ speeches there. It’s really more basic. Canada’s election turn outs on every level are quite abysmal. I would gather that senate appointee elections would have even much lower turn-outs as they would have much less fan fare as provincial and federal elections would.

    Limiting to 8 year terms is a joke. Think about it. Supposing Harper passes this legislation in the house. It goes to the senate. It’s possible that senators who are,say, not that far from age 75 may vote along with the 8 year term as they already have not far to go before retirement anyway, but does anyone seriously think those younger senators will vote on legislation that will curtail their own job security? Especially those under the age of 65 who still are of working age? They’ll never find a job that’s as cushy or that pays that much with that many perks again.

    No, I think the only solution is to abolish the senate altogether. We can’t even call it the chamber of sober second thought, after what happened with that climate change bill. Now, it appears, at least one Liberal, MP Scott Andrews, the one who beat Fabian Manning in Avalon, is agreeing with NDP regarding the abolition of the senate. Think of all the tax dollars that can be saved! Think how many programs that not only can be saved, but perhaps improved upon.

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