Coyne v. Wells on those Senate appointments -

Coyne v. Wells on those Senate appointments

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Coyne v. Wells on those Senate appointments

  1. Jonathan, great music selection as always.

    At 3:34, Wells says "It's pretty gross", Coyne laughs and says "It's a technical term", and then an "Oops! Technical Difficulties" screen flashes. Was this an intentional joke, or a bizarre coincidence?

    • That was a genuine technical difficulty, and therefore more of a coincidence than an intentional joke. Still funny though, no?

  2. So, the short version is that neither of you can really guess at what the hell Harper is up to? (I don't mean that as a slight against, I assure you!).

    • I think most of the pros have given up on trying to guess what Harper is up to. They just assume that he's random and unpredictable with things like appointments. Personally, I've always suspected that Harper was a Dungeons & Dragons geek in his youth, and he occasionally rolls the old 20-sided dice to determine his next move.

      • Perhaps Harper marches to the beat of his own drum and we are guilty of defining him prematurely. I am guilty on occasion of writing my own narrative regarding the government and their decisions.
        How many of us thought Mr. Charisma would be leading the Polls after 1300 days in a minority parliament through multiple elections, a recession, and a global pandemic?

      • From what I have read Steve was a complete Dungeons and Dragons geek – and no that doesn't surprise me at all.

  3. Would you think less of me if I *completely* understood that joke?

    • Not at all, brother!

  4. I am not exactly disgruntled with the Senate like Coyne is but I am not gruntled either. The Senate was debased with these types of appointments long ago and no one really pays any attention to the Senate, except occasionally when it gets a bit bolshie. I would like PMs to take the Senate more seriously by appointing worthier people and for the Senate to get involved in public debates/msm.

    • I think you've pretty much captured the general mood of most Canadians – from political junkies, to pundits, to average folks with lives. My guess is that there's very little upside to appointing the most ostensibly capable (yet loyally partisan) individuals available. And, that there's really no broad political downside to "abusing" it as a reward system. And the latter can at least serve to pay off favours, which tips the scale in favour of continuing the debasement.

      I'm not sure folks would like an elected Senate as much as they hope they would – imagine twice the partisan BS from our current diet!

  5. Gary Doer is just as much a New Democrat as anyone. Just because he's successful and pragmatic doesn't mean he's a pretender in the party.

  6. AC brings up the point again that the appointment of Doer is seen cynically by him as an effort to reestablish a PC gov't in Manitoba, and the new Premier would be beholden to Harper. I still don't get it. Maybe if it was Quebec, or Ontario, or Alberta, BC, but Manitoba?

    What's Harper's reward? Some patronage position in Winnipeg after he leaves office?

    I'm beginning to believe AC's roots are showing. It takes more than having the highest per capita Slurpee consumption to have influence.

    Can someone explain the benefit of having a loyal PC premier from Manitoba?

    • One province at a time, my friend, one province at a time…

      • You've played too much Risk in your adolescence.

        What's next? Appointing Robert Ghiz as the ambassador to Yakutsk?

        • LOL!

  7. It's simply, really: He has to save the Senate in order to destroy it.

    • It's the 'Ben Tre-ization' of our federal political institutions.

  8. "they should be working to ensure that Canadians get the same standard of care whether they live in Toronto, Chibougamau or Rankin Inlet"

    I agree with the spirit of your comment in large part, but the same standard of care in Rankin Inlet as Toronto? Really? At some point don't folks need to make residential decisions based on the proximity to whatever services they deem important? I'm not saying that rural Canadians can take a hike or anything, but I do have concerns about any well-meaning visions that ignore our geographic reality.

    It reminds me of folks who move to the brand new suburbs around these parts, then complain that there's no schools nearby (costing the rest of us extra tax dollars to either fund bussing or build new schools). At some point, don't we have to ask folks to accept the particular limitations (and benefits) of living in particular locations?

    Anyway – I do agree with most of what you say, save the last part.

    • I totally agree that there are practical limitations to achieving this, but my point is that the Senate should be working towards the goal of fostering regional equality in practical terms, even if it is not completely achievable in practice. I'm not convinced that we are even trying.

      If the Senate were made into a deliberative body filled with ordinary people and given a clear mandate to foster a pan-Canadian citizenship so that every Canadian has equal rights and, as far as practically possible, equal service levels across the country, it would happen. It's not going to happen as long as the Senate is a further extension of the partisan politics practiced in the House of Commons. Would an elected Senate be any less partisan than an appointed one ? No, it would not – it would be even more partisan. That's why I call the idea of an elected Senate 'spurious nonsense'. Because it is.

      I don't think it's unreasonable for people who live in suburbs to ask for equal service provision to people who live in cities. What is the alternative, everybody move to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver ?

      • Thank you Mulletaur; I have a very similar outlook on the speciousness of having an Elected Senate. The fact that our system currently has a concentration of power, most of which is due to the combination of the Executive and the Legislative working in the House, merely duplicating that in the Senate based on popular vote would only serve to double that already concentrated power. In my view, I want to preserve the intended use of the Senate: To be a source of institutional memory, which many people forgot that was its design. As you noted, it provides a needed check against federal power. Further, it works right along side the House, so that when a bill is in the House, the Senate is already studying. Delays in some bills in the Senate is good thing to avoid bad legislation getting passed so quickly. With an elected Senate, how could this be possible let alone preserving Institutional memory? Mulroney had to contend with a Liberal senate, and NAFTA became an election issue. In Chretien's early years, the largely Conservative senate ensured that Mulroney's beneficial policies were generally preserved.

        Also, the risk of having a Senate just as politicized would mean that regional and minority concerns would be increasingly ignored. People tend to conflate the design of the Senate with the negative effects of its abuse by Prime Ministers. My take is that Senators should have term limits, but lasting at least 15 years to maintain that necessary institutional memory. I find you idea of a lottery intriguing. I do like the idea of not being a career politician. My concern is that a lack of knowledge about governance structures and policymaking could be problematic. We see constantly in the House just how unaware some of the MPs are with respect to policymaking and parliamentary procedure, which has caused problems (I think Wells actually made a similar point long ago about the fact that have a House with too few people knowledgeable about policy and government can be detrimental). Still, I like the proposal. I would add maybe a method to ensure that seasonal officers of government who are non -partisan be included and taken from the public service. Heck, it would be great to have an outgoing Clerk take the job as Senator.

    • Something else I forgot to add : how on earth is it possible for a federal program like Employment Insurance to have 58 regional standards of eligibility when health care, a federal program administered and delivered by the provinces, has one single standard for eligibility ? I think even Coyne would agree that this distorts labour markets. If there are "particular limitations (and benefits) of living in particular locations", is it really the federal government's role to reinforce these differences through federal programs ? I don't think so. We can disagree on the right level of minimum hours worked to qualify for benefits, but the principle of one standard across the country is the right one, following the logic of what you wrote above.

  9. AC:
    Interesting thoughts on Mr. Doer. Hmmmmn. I am pondering your hypothesis… right or wrong, it's very interesting. And thanks for your comments re: Harper's appointments. I wish all Canadians could hear your thoughts on this subject.

  10. The sad fact of Canadian politics is that we do after the fact outrage and endlessly argue about which party has made more "icky" appointments rather than going to the real heart of the problem which is should the Senate be appointed at all. An elected Senate would ensure that ill qualified patronage people would be much less likely to be elected and would not be as inclined to use their public forums prior to appointment to suck up to the current government..
    Stephen Harper held his nose and very skillfully removed Doer in a benign way which opens the door for gains for himself. Its all about self interest and couldn't be more transparent.

  11. I'd like to get some clarification about the true role and powers of the senate; I thought I heard AC make the point that the senate doesn't have the power to block legislation passed by the HoC – is that a constitutional rule or just a convention? Without that ability how can the senate make sure that regional interests are not ignored by the HoC, either intentionally or unintentionally?

    • Coyne has become affected with the concept of "democratic" legitimacy. He took a similar position on the coalition, earlier on floor crossing. The Senate gets to vote on legislation, coalitions are legitimate in parliamentary democracies, and Canadian get to vote for a representative not a party or PM. So the short answer is Coyne is wrong, but being Coyne he is at least consistent.

      • The idea of "democratic legitimacy" doesn't sound like such a bad idea….but I get your point.

        Just thinking that this would be a non-issue if the Liberals and Conservatives (apparently starting with the Conservatives since they have the helm at this time) appointed RESPECTED individuals. Would that really be so hard? Why is that too much to ask?

        I'm sure that Mr Harper could have located 7(?) staunchly Conservative but still non-partisan "hacks" that would vote the way that he expects them to vote and also garner (possibly grudging) respect from a significant segment of the electorate. I know that there are respectable, non-partisan Conservatives out there.

        Then everyone except the ~73 hardcore "democratic legitimacy" purists would shrug and say "The system of appointing senators is not as democratic as I might prefer, but the results are great, so let's continue to monitor the situation for now, and not screw with success."

        Other than a reason to bitch and complain about the "hypocrisy of it all", what would be lost?

  12. I'm liking the Iranian political system better each day. Long live the Mullahcracy instead of Canada's malarkracy!

  13. I believe it was in a Maclean's from a number of years ago (perhaps 10). There was a profile of one Gary Doer. If I remember correctly the article seemd to say that Mr. Doer was essentially a politician and that he had been approached by all three parties to run. It was just through tradition and the best opportunity being presented that led to choosing the NDP.

  14. The Senate does not need to be directly elected to have democratic legitimacy. The Senate was never set up to be a rubber stamp of the House of Commons. Coyne should know that by now. The P.M. tried and tried to reform the Senate and has been consistently stymied by the Liberals; thus it makes sense to appoint trusted friends and organizers who'll actually work with him and not against him. Whom did Coyne want him to appoint? Nobodies without a political past or track record?

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