NDP challenge Harper to do what he said he'd do - Macleans.ca

NDP challenge Harper to do what he said he’d do


From a new NDP press release:

OTTAWA—New Democrats today challenged Stephen Harper to, as a bare minimum, place enforceable term-limits on the next round of Senate appointments, a long promised policy of the Conservative Party.

“Mr. Harper’s record on Senate reform is long on rhetoric, and short on action,” said New Democrat Democratic Reform Critic David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre). “Making new Senators agree to an enforceable term limit, as Mr. Harper has repeatedly promised, would be a modest step toward Senate reform.”

I have a column in the Citizen today arguing that if Harper is serious about Senate reform, the appointments process is the place to focus his attention. Except I don’t actually think that Harper cares about Senate reform one way or another; like abortion in the US, it is one of those useful issues that Conservatives in Canada use to keep their base on a low boil. They are always just about to do something about it, though they never seem to get there. Senate reform for Harper is a tactical device, not part of a serious strategic agenda.

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NDP challenge Harper to do what he said he’d do

  1. Well I guess it's true what they say about Great Minds and all that….I just took a peek at my comment history and lookie what I found:

    3 days ago @ Macleans.ca – CBC/Ekos: Behold the I… · 0 replies · +4 points
    I very much doubt it. Senate reform is to the CPC as overturning Roe v Wade is to the Republicans – far too useful a tool to rally the base to ever actually move on.

    19 weeks ago @ Macleans.ca – A portrait of Canada's… · 0 replies · +5 points
    Senate Reform is to The Reform Party of Canada as Overturning Roe v. Wade is to Republicans.

    A perceived injustice that is always perceived as tantalizingly close to being corrected.

    Neither the Reform Party nor the Republicans have any intention of ever actually correcting these "injustices"…their continued existence is too great of a vote getter amongst their key demographics – Evangelical Christians in the States, and perpetually alienated Westerners in Canada.

    Two shiny quarters for Richard!

    • Exactly correct. But let's not pretend that this phenomenon is unique to the Conservatives. Climate Change and national unity have played the same role for the Liberals for years.

      It's exactly the same way that NGOs who are advocacy groups for particular social issues like child poverty or homelessness don't ever want that issue to be completely resolved. Because if it were, what would happen to them?

      Everybody needs their wedge issue. That wedge issue becomes an asset that nobody really wants to lose, so its never in the best interest of the asset owner to have the value of that asset reduced to zero.

      • I've worked in NGO's raising awareness about poverty, and believe you me, I would have loved to have been out of a job because of government action (or a miracle). Similarly, in the line of work I'm in now – victims' services – I'd love to be looking for work because there are no more victims of crime. I think you're being unecessarily harsh, unsympathetic, and your generalization is too broad. Do you happen to recall the (I believe it was Covenant House, in Toronto) ads where the copy was "Sadly, we're celebrating our 20th anniversary"?

        • I don't doubt that people like you exist at these agencies, and I believe you and I respect your position greatly. I do believe that people like you are in the minority, and especially so at the part of these organizations whose job is to lobby various governments for funding.

          • Here's hoping that those who share john-g's narrow, conservative-protection agency mindset are forever in the minority. While many who work in NGOs have passion for their jobs and shouldn't apologize for finding modicums of enjoyment in it, the #s who want it to be an endless 'gravy' (with gravy being more gruel, and often given back in donations and volunteer time) are truly a tiny lot. But those like John-G, who use fruits-and-nuts comparisons and wild statements to shunt the stare away from his team's and his own culpability, unfortunately, seem to show no sign of evolution.

  2. Appointing rubber stamping hyper-partisans effectively abolishes the Senate, except for the expense.

  3. I know the PMO actually runs everything but there is a Minister of State for Democratic Reform, Steven Fletcher, and I don't think anyone has ever called him up and asked him what he's doing to earn the incremental increase in salary and office budget.

    When he was appointed he said he was going to be working on issues that "go to the core of our Canadian Democracy."

    Shouldn't he be addressing that in the context of all these questions about Senate Reform, proroguing, term limits, and whether or not it is legitimate for Oppostion MP's to form coalitions, etc.?

    • Why would the media contact someone with answers?
      They don't want answers, they want issues.

      It's just like this post,
      PMSH has stated repeatedly that Senate reform is on his agenda,
      and then journalists just come back with
      'no it's not'…..

      I think the mnedia should be prorogued
      so as they can recalibrate .

      • Ha! Wilson, you cut up… You have seen the past entertaining performances of CON ministers and talking plants when asked to provide an answer on a question, haven't you?

      • Did you notice Peter Mansbridge ask the PM directly about Senate reform in their most recent interview? Did you notice what the PMs response was?

      • I don't see any "answers" on the web site, wilson, but would expect to hear much more from Minister Fletcher. Unfortunately the entire output for the year seems to be media releases commenting on provincial activities and the appointment of an "Advisory Panel on the Creation of a Democracy Promotion Agency."

        I'm all for the creation of a Democratic Promotion Agency by the way. Maybe we could call it Parliament?

  4. "Senate reform for Harper is a tactical device, not part of a serious strategic agenda."

    Best sentence written by this author since "Rebel Sell".

    My understanding of Canadian politics and constitutional law (garnered through a decade of academic study and work), is that any "fundamental" change to the nature of the Senate requires not just the federal parliament's support BUT the support of ALL Canada's provincial legislatures.

    So when is Canada's media going to start to ask Premiers Charest, Graham, Ghiz, Dexter and Williams is they agree with yours truly that even term limits, and certainly elections, for Senators requires a constitutional amendment? You're not distracted by Parliament for a while …

    • I repeat

      Why would the media contact someone with answers?
      They don't want answers, they want issues.

  5. Hi wilson.

    Do you know what Harper wants the Senate to look like when he is done? What is his goal?

  6. I totally agree with your column in the Citizen.

    I am not sure why Harper supporters do not think this through. Surely, if they want an elected senate, they should first consider addressing the imbalance. Some provinces are under-represented; some are over-represented. Making the Senate elected will make that imbalance more of a concern for the under-represented provinces, especially if being elected makes the Senators take a more aggressive role in amending or rejecting legislation.

    This, I believe, is why Harper has never said what kind of Senate he wants when he has completed all his "reforms".

    Is it not possible to simply make the Senate non-partisan, and ban any party affiliation? Vet the appointments as you suggest (the same way they do with judges), and allow only appointments of merit. Allow the Senators to vote their conscience and not along party lines.

  7. As cynical as political columnists can be, Potter tends to be consistently more cynical than 95% of his colleagues. As this post demonstrates.

  8. Harper won't publicly produce on this file — besides the angry platitudes meant to fill his party's coffers — is because a) he can't guarnatee his own political power base unless he secures all potential ballasts; b) he needs the issue occasionally to rile up the villagers ie NEP; c) he can't guarantee that it'll be a CON gov't in power when those terms expire.
    Ask his last round of appointments to the Senate, as public servants, if they signed some promisary note? Why isn't that for public consumption?

  9. If Harper was at all serious about Senate reform I'd be reading stories in this Globe and Mail how people close to the PMO have informally approached various premiers asking what it would take for them to sign onto Senate reform.

    But I haven't, and I won't be holding my breath waiting to. The very way that Harper has approached this topic (by somehow insisting that changes to the Constitution of this magnitude can be achieved unilaterally at the federal level) should be enough to convince anyone that he's not serious about it.

  10. Why on earth would Harper put term limits on his own senators while succeeding prime ministers, possibly Liberal, may appoint senators with no limits at all? He'd have to be crazy.

    Either we have senate reform or we don't, but the idea that Harper would handicap his own party is absurd.

  11. Senate reform for Harper is a tactical device, not part of a serious strategic agenda.

    Not sure if I agree or not. Harper has blown a lot of hot air on the senate over the years. of course hot air is indicative of nothing more than hot air. i dunno.

    but, if Potter is right, then what is Harper's strategic agenda? Senate and reform and increased accountability seemed like they might be good candidates, but…

    • it was an honest question if anyone has any thoughts. i guess importing a more american-style-get-tough-on-crime-approach?

  12. All party leaders disgust me none of them see past there own noses.. We need new leaders for all parties these are the 3 stooges, we have layton pandering to Harper like Iggy did we have harper pushing the fear button on terror to take the focus off his prorogation of parliament I wonder if Fleischer is still on the payroll it is republican 101 put fear into the people… CTV feeding the crap on and on we can go. This world is going nuts and a over haul is needed..