Let us tell sad tales of the deaths of Senate caucuses

‘There are no more Liberal senators’


The reporters lined up outside a meeting room in the basement of Parliament’s Centre Block were confused. I mean, maybe more than usual.

The Liberal Senate Caucus, as it then was, had walked into the room earlier this morning. Then Justin Trudeau had walked out to say he had ejected the lot of them from the Liberal Caucus. “There are no more Liberal senators,” Trudeau, who theoretically should know whether such a thing is true, had told reporters.

The (ex?-)Liberal Senate Caucus continued to meet long after Trudeau’s departure, then long after their weekly meeting’s scheduled end. Not that this was a problem, suddenly, because the normal reason for such a meeting’s end — Senators must troop upstairs to the slightly-later weekly meeting of the National Liberal Caucus — was now moot. From inside the black box of their meeting, little escaped.

I spotted a staffer for one of the senators. Did you have any advance word on this, I asked? “Nobody had a f—kin’ clue!” she said cheerfully. 

Terry Mercer, a bear of an Atlantic organizer for the Liberals, former national director of the party under Jean Chrétien, walked past, in a vile mood. I called his name. He waved his arm as if warding off a defensive tackle. “Go in the side door,” a staffer said to him, and he executed a 90-degree turn to avoid the waiting scrum.

Finally Jim Cowan emerged, flanked by a bunch of senators I could have sworn were Liberals: Jim Munson, Marie Poulin, Art Eggleton, a very slightly mollified Mercer, and a few more. Cowan announced to the cameras and microphones that this was as fine a day as he could recall. “We’ve been liberated,” he said. Surely the Prime Minister will want to similarly emancipate senators still toiling under the yoke of the Conservatives. Now they could speak for themselves. Free at last. And yet, he said, they will continue to “style” themselves the Liberal Caucus in Senate.

It’s a bit of a botched Schrödinger experiment, in sum. The box has been opened, but there is some disagreement about whether the cat lives or dies. And neither Trudeau nor Cowan seems to believe it’s anywhere in between. Perhaps they should consult.

“Is this just positive spin, Senator?” a reporter asked.

“It is! It’s not. It is. It’s — it’s not positive spin, but it is a positive story,” Cowan said, and it was hard to be upset at his confusion. I was reminded, as one would be, of Act IV, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Richard II. Henry Bolingbroke has risen up against the hapless King Richard, and they meet to pass the crown. Henry asks, “Are you contented to resign the crown?”

Richard, like Sen. Cowan, is torn. “Ay, no; no, ay; for I must nothing be,” he replies. “Therefore no no, for I resign to thee.”

The last two acts of Richard II are about sorting out the effects of Bolingbroke’s rash act, and I won’t spoil it for you but it gets a little messy. Similarly, it’s hard to know where the Liberal Party as a whole goes from here. Terry Mercer gave his life to this party. Dozens of other senators and their staffers, same deal. Percy Downe was Chrétien’s chief of staff; he got told this morning he has no further function as a Liberal. An NDP staffer this morning was gleeful, because with only 34 MPs and zero Senators, the Liberals may no longer qualify for a caucus room in the Centre Block. It’s not entirely clear how all this will work.

Nor is it clear it is a permanent state of affairs. The old Reform Party was dead-set against MPs’ pensions until its members started to qualify for some. Stephen Harper did not appoint a single senator* until he realized Stéphane Dion had planned to appoint plenty if the coalition crisis had gone the other way. (*UPDATE: Except Michael Fortier! Whoopsie — pw) Among a thousand other backtrack scenarios, it’s possible to imagine a future Liberal prime minister — perhaps his name would be Trudeau — watching as a coherent Conservative Senate caucus blocks Liberal legislation that has gone orphan in the Senate. In the nearer term, every time a fellow or lady who still collects a Senate paycheque shows up at a gathering of Liberals, the sincerity of this divorce will be open to question.

For today, however, Justin Trudeau has moved boldly and left everyone scratching their heads. Something changed today. I think.


Let us tell sad tales of the deaths of Senate caucuses

  1. Yep, it is a bold move. I didn’t realize that Justin had blindsided his own senators though, which is extremely bold and maybe a little foolish. There were a lot of old party warhorses in that room.

    But certainly bold, and if it moves things in the right direction on this issue, I applaud it, even if I’d never vote Liberal.

    • Not to just spin this. But i’m wondering if this isn’t a part of the rumoured team Justin power play against old line liberals who don’t want to play under his new rules? No doubt it could get ugly as liberal family fights often are. But if Trudeau wants to put more distance between himself and the old way of doing business this one bold way of going about it, and a challenge to Harper, particularly once the courts say no way Steve can you do that. It’ll be interesting to see how the media split on this. I can’t wait to see Coyne pronounce judgement. Will it be a thumbs up or down?

      • I think it is definitely a challenge to Harper, which is a good thing. As many people have said, Harper has been hypocritical, complacent and tinged with corruption on the senate file. So I don’t mind something that keeps the senate in the minds of the government.

        But the truly interesting thing to me is what this means for the party as a whole. The Conservative party was never really a threat to Liberal dominance until it reconciled the Reformers, the Progressive Conservatives, and the Mulroney conservatives in the wilderness.

        The Liberals seem to have their own divisions, though these seems to be on more generational lines. The old staffers of the Chretien-Martin era have sat out the last two elections for the most part, and they have tried to make do with new blood and new voters, rather than the old guard and the old grassroots. So has Justin driven another wedge between the old liberals and the new liberals with this move?

        • I think you’re right on that score. This is Jt asserting that he is the new face of the LPC and those who want to should climb aboard or hit the rocker. It is about time really. Who knows how it will pan out.

          • Well, as someone who was excited about the Reform Party turfing out the type of “old man” conservatism that Mulroney represented… it might not be as fun as you think.

            We too once had dreams we thought would lead to progress, where things would be different and better for everyone, even if they insisted on clinging to the old ways and the old rules. Things change and soon you’ve made too many comprises trying to make the parliamentary system do what you want and achieve power.

            Hopefully you have better luck.

          • I hear you, but the reform went from a populist protest party to one that wanted to govern. I’m not sure Trudeau is in the same boat in the sense he’s staking his future on liberals who think of nothing but power and how to wield it seeing they need to take a wider more pan Canadian view. It’s almost the opposite of what happened to reform.

          • Can you clarify the second sentence for me? I can’t really make sense of it. I think you might have done a revision of that sentence in a rush, and forgot to finish. I do that all the time.

          • I was trying to make the point JT is trying to sideline those who may not want to give up old Liberal truths – like this is what you do when you’re in politics, you pull all the levers that favour you’re party holding on to power come what may. Clearly he wants to stake out the high ground for the Liberals, and not all olde thyme Chretien style Liberals will see it this way. I wonder what the old coot is making of this?

            ‘ Hey dat young whipper snapper don no nutting bout politics. Yu gots to grab dem by da neck an squeeze like ell.An nebber let go. Dat’s fer sure’

          • Oh okay, so you think that this is a move from the more pragmatic, ruthless party to a more ideological and forward-thinking party? That would be interesting, though we Canadians don’t tend to reward innovative or nice politicians. We vote for bastards or boneheads instead.

            I’m not sure if your criticism of Chretien is entirely warranted though. He put an end to most of the old style Liberal shenanigans with campaign finance reform, which certainly impacted the party negatively for the good of the country. A much bigger gesture than this one by Trudeau frankly.

          • Not sure they see themselves as more ideological and less pragmatic. But it will be different – less clubby and chummy. Fair point about Chrétien. I just couldn’t see him doing this. He’d see it as giving up too much ground to the other team.

          • In the immortal words of the The Who: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

          • Justin making decisions without consulting caucus = good

            Harper making decisions without consulting caucus = bad

            We understand your math. It’s easy to understand. Not so easy to apply to reality. But that’s another matter.

          • All he is doing is distancing himself from them because of the inevitable disaster of the upcoming auditors report.

          • An audit that might well implicate Conservatives as well. I’m not buying this altogether. He could have easily just sat pat. He didn’t put any of those guys there; but Harper sure did. The risk is at least proportionately Harper’s as much as JTs. I don’t see how this move makes him less vulnerable from accusations of ducking for cover anyway. In short i think you’re wrong. It amazes me how thoughtlessly the media have been churning out that opinion without even examining it thoroughly.

        • All parties have divisions, Yanni, and they all have extremist members too. Because of the anger over the sponsorship scandal, Trudeau has made efforts to create distance between his leadership, and that of the previous government — just like Brad Wall did — and if someone else won the leadership, so too would that person. I cannot speak to Trudeau, but I can tell you that, despite efforts to show distance publicly, the guys in the backrooms of the SaskParty are the same guys who were there when Devine was in power.

          • Yeah, eventually Trudeau has to make the peace within the party, through a combination of reconciliation and pruning.

            Is this move about pruning? If so, when is the reconciliation? Presumably there has to be room in Trudeau’s political machine for the Liberals that were in power in the 90’s.

      • This comment was deleted.

        • As opposed to the Harper sun god brigade over at sun tv. And before you point out the cbc is govt funded, so is the Sun these days.

          • Sun TV gets $1Billion from gov’t just like CBC? Nice try.

          • If they had more than fifteen viewers, that would help. ;)

          • Check out who the largest contributor to Sun Tv’s ad revenue stream is these days. Not a billion a year. But ask yourself if the sitting Gotd should be a major financial prop for a conveniently partisan so called new service.

          • So a few million dollars of private party funds going to one partisan TV station is the equivalent of a BILLION dollars of taxpayers money going to a different partisan TV station? Give me a break!

          • Nice try. A few million of private party funds! Try a few million of tax payer funds going to support a private party. And nowhere did i say it was equivalent. Nor is the cbc a partisan liberal org…give yourself a break.

          • If you would stop saying stupid things people would stop making fun of you

          • See a lot if people making fun of me do you? Who’re you, the other half of Rick’s brain? Care to point out what was stupid? I won’t wait around.

        • So is Stockwell Day.

    • With the swish of his magic wand, Trudeau has transformed Liberal Senators to Senate Liberals…such a great event…they all feel “liberated”…will they now feel liberated enough to vote with the Conservatives in the Senate or will Baby Trudeau still be sending secret messages to them on how to vote…such a scam by Trudeau but such fun!!

      • Did you hear how EX Liberal senator Cowan tried to defend himself by saying that yes, he had always been independent, and now he had become an independent.

        But he is still a Liberal and he is proud of it. He will still be leader of the Liberal caucus in the senate.

        You see, we are now going US style. Republicans and Democrats have separate caucuses for their parties in each House. Now the Liberals have that too. Isn’t this interesting. The Liberals favouring a US style of government. Interesting day indeed.

        • Name one Senate reform, Harper has enacted in the past 8 years? I mean just one and please don’t name his appointing 59 crooks, bagmen and failed politicians as a reform.

      • Ah the “magic wand” line again. Been seeing this all over the place today. Guess the PMO boys have sent round their latest guidelines to the party spammers.

    • Trudeau keeps this up long enough, this conservative will be voting for him. Brining results tot he news alone might get my vote as the rest are just deliving hot air, BS and no RESULTS.

      And I like results.

    • Re blindsiding senators.. I think it might have been shrewd to demonstrate what he was saying as he was saying it.

  2. “it’s possible to imagine a future Liberal prime minister — perhaps his name would be Trudeau — watching as a coherent Conservative Senate caucus blocks Liberal legislation that has gone orphan in the Senate”

    Should the Liberals manage to gain power, they’d be up against a Conservative Senate for some years in any event, no? (even without today’s change)

    • Assuming this disbanding of the Liberal senate caucus is permanent, they are now up against a Conservative senate forever, rather than for a few years following their next election victory.
      On the flip side, assuming this is not permanent, then it makes no difference, once they’re in power the caucus will magically reappear.

      • I don’t get the forever part. Let’s pretend there’s a run of Liberal governments starting next year. By 2025 the Conservative caucus would no longer have a majority in Senate – unless they somehow managed to convince most post-Harper appointees to join or vote along.

        • Most governments don’t “run” much longer than that. They wear out their welcome right about that time.

          • If the Libs stick to their plan, and voters like it, it would be damned difficult for their successors to go back to patronage appointments and party caucuses though.

          • No, it wouldn’t. PM’s have appointed every senator since the beginning of time. Continuing that tradition isn’t “going back”, it’s the status quo. I’m sure Liberals and Dippers would be up in arms about it, but Conservatives would have no problem with a Conservative PM appointing Conservative senators.

          • No, they probably wouldn’t. Because conservatives SAY they oppose patronage appointments, but they MEAN they oppose liberal appointments. Patronage bestowed on conservatives is AOK with them.

          • The difference would be in who they appoint, and how they get chosen. Bag men getting rewarded for breaking the law on the governing party’s behalf, for instance, likely wouldn’t get a sniff…

          • If a new appointment process actually was enacted, and it established that the PM must appoint Senators based upon the recommendation of a non-partisan (or perhaps multi-partisan) review panel, I don’t think it would be as easy (politically) for a later PM to just start ignoring the review panel, or worse, dismantle it.

            While, yes, the PM would technically retain the constitutional power to appoint virtually anyone he or she wants, I’d imagine that a procedure could be put in place that, politically, would make said power akin to the Governor General’s reserve powers. In other words, the PM would retain absolute power of appointment in theory, but exercising said power unilaterally could become politically untenable.

            ETA: It’s worth noting that technically the PM doesn’t appoint Senators, the Governor General does, on the advice of the PM. TECHNICALLY, the GG could refuse to appoint someone that the PM wanted appointed, but the tradition of the GG deferring to the PM’s advice is long established. I don’t see any particular reason why the PM’s advice to the GG couldn’t be similarly curtailed by having the PM defer to the appointment advice of an independent body. The PM would technically retain the power to ask the GG to appoint anyone he or she likes, but a convention could surely be established whereby that power was worthy of comment more in the breach than in the observance.

          • Oh no! Into his own net again!
            Harper has done nothing about senate reform for years and broke his promise not to appoint senators because Conservatives have no problem with an appointed senate.
            How long will the coach leave stupie on the field?

        • As long as there are Conservative senators remaining, while all new senators appointed by a Liberal PM are not Liberals, rather they are independents, then the Conservative majority will remain. It will be Conservatives acting in unison while all others act independently. Of course, I see your point that it might not be an absolute majority, it will be a relative majority (aka a plurality).

          However, as long as the independents remain independent, a plurality can get its way most of the time (for evidence, watch the show Survivor). It’s not until the independents do some coordination that they would be able to overcome the plurality, in which case you might start to call them Liberals again.

          • I suppose one could argue that a hypothetical PM Mulcair would have it even worse, wrt Senate voting.

          • So you’re coming out as maintaining the current partisanship?

          • No

          • So what does the acting in unison mean?

          • It’s not complicated. Consult Oxford, Webster, the Free Online Dictionary, or any other.

          • So screw the iceberg – full speed ahead – gotcha.

          • Yeah, have you rolled up the bottom of your pants already!

          • Only penguins screw icebergs.

          • I think we’d have to consult conservapaedia to see what the wingnuts think words mean.

          • Ask (EX??) Liberal senator Cowan. He would be able to explain it to you.

          • There’s nothing to prevent the Senators from caucusing. I would expect that to happen anyway, but since they won’t be the PM’s cronies or partisan plants, there’s less reason to believe they will blindly follow the marching orders of a party leader.

          • So what Justin is suggesting is like the party system in the US where the Democrats and the Republicans each have a partisan caucus in Congress and then another partisan caucus in the senate. Except Canadians senators won’t be elected, of course, because we are, well, Canadian. We like the appointed type to rule over us.

          • So what Justin is suggesting is like the party system in the US where the Democrats and the Republicans each have a partisan caucus in Congress and then another partisan caucus in the senate.

            Actually, what you’re describing is the situation we’ve always had, one partisan caucus in the House for each represented party, and a second partisan caucus in the Senate. What Justin seems to be proposing is that the upper House shouldn’t have partisan caucuses at all, with no whipping of votes nor presumed unanimity among Senators affiliated with one party or another.

          • Well, he sort of missed the mark then didn’t he? Considering the first thing the Liberal senators did after hearing the news from Trudeau was form their own “Senate Liberal caucus” and elect a new Whip.

          • :-)

            True, though Trudeau would likely argue that once he’s “set them free” they’re free, and that he has no formal power to stop them from forming a group, and trying to enforce discipline on said group.

            The election of a new whip is interesting though. I hadn’t heard about that. I wonder what power the whip has to actually get anyone to “fall in line” given that the leader of the party no longer recognizes the caucus? What leverage could an informal whip of an informal caucus actually bring to bear on his or her fellow Senators? Even as things used to be, it seems to me that the only real leverage a Senate whip ever had was “vote for us or we’ll kick you out of caucus”. I suppose that leverage still exists, technically, but it’s a pretty hollow threat if there are no practical advantages to being in the caucus versus being outside of it.

          • And if the voters like the independent approach and see Conservative Senators not just blocking their opponents’ bills but also in a very clear and evident way blocking true Senate reform (by continuing their partisan ways) after supposedly having been trying to end exactly that for years … well, it won’t help the CPC regain power…

    • Like most of the times government has changed hands? As I recall, Brian Mulroney did his fair share of appointments too, and again as I recall, Chrétien’s problems in the Senate were related to his own Liberal senators, particularly when came time to pass the said clarity act.

      • No need to go back that far. Harper himself was faced with a Liberal majoirty Senate when he first became PM.

    • Presumably a Liberal government would need someone to introduce government legislation in the Senate, answer questions directed to the government in the Senate, etc.

      • Presumably any government formed without representation in the Senate would have to rely on convincing at least a few Senators to introduce bills (and a majority to pass, bien sur). The questioning of government part is a good point. The same issue would arise if the NDP or any non Lib or Con party held power.

        • To qualify as Government Business in the Senate, a legislative item has to be identified as such by the leader or deputy leader of the government in the Senate. Government business gets priority in debate, can be made subject to time allocation, etc. This is important for any legislative priority of the government – and, potentially, especially important where the government is asking the Senate to approve supply.It follows that at least one Senator would have to be recognized as representing the Government in the Senate – whether or not that individual is a Minister of the Crown.

      • guess they will have to go to the conservatives, since there are no liberals to go to…won’t that be fun….but only if JT becomes PM

        • Well, um, no.

      • How do US parties do it?

        The Republicans have a Republican caucus in Congress and they have a Republican caucus in the senate.

        The Americans can do it, so perhaps Justin and the (ex)Liberal senators can go and take some lessons over there and see how they do it.

        • US parties operate in a different system, of course. To mimic that system would cause at the very least a substantial change to the Senate rules (and since the Senate is master of its own rules, that alone would be tricky for a government that has declared itself to be free of Senators.)
          But in practice the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Whip in the US system are powerful party positions reporting more or less directly to the POTUS. The elected nature of US Senators also makes party discipline somewhat effective, and the Whips have various levers to exercise control over party members. While individual US Senators are arguably more free to break party lines than members of our House of Commons, I’d argue there’s probably less holding back a Canadian Senator (who is appointed to age 75) under the current system. The leverage whips have consist of things like office space, plum committee assignments, and travel perks. These are the types of levers Trudeau has forgone by cutting his Senate caucus loose (they’re now, presumably, 100% in the control of Senator Cowan’s office). This does make Senators much more independent from the party leader, but also arguably drastically increases the power of the Senate leader – the only check on that power is that he now serves at the pleasure of the Senate caucus, rather than the leader.

  3. Yeah, somebody kicked over the chessboard.

    • More like one player decided to take away half his own chess pieces and expects to be able to continue the game.

      • In 3D chess there is more than one board.

        • Too bad he isn’t playing either.

          • LOL well Harper isn’t playing with a full deck, so I’m afraid it’s you Cons that have a problem.

      • Actually it’s more like one player got up from the table and told the other he can either follow or keep playing with himself…

    • Not so quick. The queen may have made a clever move today but the AG chess piece is still very much in play. He could be King for a day.


      • Trust you to count on a fairy chess piece, Tinkerbell.

        Check…your meds.

  4. I know it spoils your happy happy narrative Paul, but you’ve forgotten Michael Fortier who was officially summoned to senate on February 27, 2006, just over a month after Harper was first elected, with his appointment to senate having been announced within a week of Harper winning the election.

    Incidentally, that’s two years before the coalition crisis even existed. Harper didn’t backtrack for any reason other than he wanted to give a patronage plum to the man who had been, and has been, rejected *every* *single* *time* he came before the voters.

    That said, yes, blindsiding his own senators like that was definitely not something I’d seen occuring. Although it sounds like perhaps only some of them were blindsided.

  5. “In the nearer term, every time a fellow or lady who still collects a Senate paycheque shows up at a gathering of Liberals, the sincerity of this divorce will be open to question.”

    Christina Spencer – Jan 29 2014:

    Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Sen. George Baker was among those. “I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in years,” he said. “This is a momentous occasion for the Senate. Because this de-politicizes an institution that’s got to be de-politicized.”

    Baker noted he will be allowed to remain a member of the Liberal Party, and anticipated being allowed to attend next month’s Liberal convention in Montreal.

    “But we are all independent, as it should be,” he said.

    • Which makes me wonder if the non consultation of the liberal senate caucus is strictly true. More of a coup against those old liners who may have put up a big fuss. More and more i think the real story here[ Wells are you listening?] is this part of the Trudeau power play.

    • And yet the when those very same Liberals were Liberal senators they told us they were independent in their thinking as well.

      So what then was the problem before???

    • George would love this – he’s always been a bit of a maverick and an independent thinker. First person I ever voted for federally; still a big fan.

      • He’s my favourite senator — so refreshingly outspoken and seems like a mad genius. Didn’t realize you’re a Newfoundlander: great place and great people.

        • Yeah, George is great. Never met him, as far as I can recall, as he was always in Ottawa, but had a nodding acquaintance with his wife & kids when I lived in Gander; actually worked with his son for a while, and his brother taught me in high school. A good family all around – and yes, a bit eccentric and bright, the whole lot of them. Nothing but respect for them from me.

          I’m an ex-pat; an economic exile. Been in ON for the past 22 years, but spent the first 28 there – and go back regularly to visit.

  6. Yeah….who wants to talk about economic policy, international relations, or job creation any way.
    Better to lay back…smoke a dobbie and discuss the merits of legalizing prostitution and dumping the senate. Say this for Trudeau’s handlers though………….when they tell him what he’s supposed to think, it always gets attention from the media.
    Now…if only the media wasn’t so incurious about Justin’s advisors…………………….
    The media spent some ink being surprised that a Christian pastor visiting Israel had views on homosexulaity…or, heaven forbid..quoted the bible.
    But they seem not to care about the “other” trudeau who’s made some rather curious documentaries about Jews and Israel. Or Gerald Butts….he gave Ontario the Green Energy Act (tell us how that turned out Ontario businesses)…and will be in a position to turn Trudeau’s ear if he ever becomes PM.
    Just imagine the carnage then…….doing to ALL of Canada…what McGinty and Wynne have done to Ontario.
    Yep…better to talk about the senate. (Of course, this move was just to shield Trudeau from the AG report which will no doubt show that our Liberals in the Senate have been behaving in such a manner as to make Duffy and Wallin look like pikers when it comes to padding the expense account)
    Hello Mac Harb !!! (X’s 32)

    • Speed kills, my friend.

    • This has really scrambled you guys.

    • I’ve seen people chug the koolaide before. But this may be the first time i’ve seen someone snort it like a line of coke.

      • It’s called Fording.

    • well said!

  7. I would have gone with Vicky Pollard instead of Richard II quote, Wells, but I guess you are more highbrow than me. Yeah but, no but, yeah but ….

    • +1 for name checking Vicky

  8. I have made a point since Trudeau became leader of ignoring the constant barrage of email pleas for donations, and instead donate whenever he does something I agree with. And so off I go to make another modest donation today.

    • That has been my policy for awhile…. I haven’t donated in a long time. ;)

      • LOL!

  9. So.. for those of us not in the know, what does this tell us about relations within the Liberal party as a whole? Is the Chretien-Martin feud patched up yet? I mean, it was obvious that Dion and Ignatieff went into battle without the experienced talent of the famous Liberal Party machine. I thought the assumption of a Trudeau to the throne would fix this and the Liberal party would rise again. But this seems to be a strike against that same old guard from the smoke filled rooms.

    I’m definitely confused if someone wants to talk about it.

    • It’s a strike against the Conservatives and while some of the Liberal Senators might be confused about what’s going on. I can’t see it as a strike against the “old guard”, they’re still Senators, they’re just not officially “Liberal politicians”.

      Essentially Trudeau has thrown a gauntlet in Harper’s face, daring him to do one of the things that Harper is least capable of. Either Harper chooses to relinquish some power or he chooses not to and once again shows how controlling he is and how Trudeau is different (and better) than him.

      It’s a brilliant political move, in addition to being the correct thing to do.

      • I think that’s a bit too optimistic and romantic for me to believe, but maybe. I wouldn’t mind a bit of grand narrative coming from our politicians.

        But if it wasn’t a strike against some of the Liberal senators, why did they need to talk so long? Why some unhappy faces?

        • Trudeau has put Harper between a rock and a hard place. If he doesn’t unshackle his Senators then he looks like an insecure power freak who is only paying lip service to Senate reform. If he does free the Senators then his back benchers will start baying for freedom too.

          I dislike Vellacourt and his views intensely but anyone who thinks he won’t be all over any change in Senate discipline like Vic Toews on a babysitter is delusional. Trudeau has set the CPoC up for an internal conflict that could split the right irrevocably and has surprised me greatly.

          • Trudeau has set the CPoC up for an internal conflict that could split the right irrevocably

            LOL are you serious?! I think the CPC will be very united in keeping it’s Senators as part of the caucus. Why would any of them want to alienate a whole bunch of people who’ve worked for the party for years? The fact that Trudeau’s called for them to do so will give them even less reason to follow along.

          • Why?
            The fact that you can’t work that out for yourself speaks volumes. It’s the same arrogant, chugging at the public trough, don’t give a crap about the people attitude that has “Mr Useless” Fantino in full damage control mode today.

            Failure to act will just make Trudeau seem more open and appealing and people do vote with their heart.
            Still I guess you have to have a heart first unlike Fantino and the basest of party bases.

          • Ya, I’m sure Canadians will see Trudeau as “open and appealing” because he doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of old Liberals, only wants to hear from the ones he can directly control. What a farce.

          • Being lectured about the the drawbacks of control-freakery by someone who has blindly supported the most controlling PMs in history is amusing.

            Canadians will need no lessons form the likes of you and yours about the perils of being a trained seal Tricky.

          • Well, there’s that whole Senate reform thing that the CPC has been paying lip service to for eight years while loading the Senate with the most partisan bunch to sit there in my memory (and that’s saying something). Some folks will now want to follow suit, as they genuinely believe the party line of reforming the Senate – and Harper, at minimum, will balk at the very idea because JT did it first.

          • If this new Independent Liberal Senate Caucus continues to vote as a block against the Conservatives then we can safely say JT’s gambit was just a PR move.

          • It doesn’t take an uncritical Liberal to vote against any Harper inspired lunacy, so that might not be a valid method of judging if it is a PR move.

          • If Conservatives vote reflexively as per PMO instruction they are rightly called trained seals.
            Are you saying Liberals reflexively voting against the government
            is principled?

          • No
            I’m just saying that your benchmark could mean that people who aren’t ex-Liberals could end up being categorised as such.

      • this move may bite little trudeau in the arse…he has lost people who have a great deal of experience, influence and know how to raise money…he is now basically on his own

    • JT may regret this move…these lib senators (now exes) were dedicated party members with plenty of connections and the ability to organize and raise money for the party…who will JT turn to now for expertise?

  10. They can still be Liberal members just like any other Canadian can. He just cut off the ties between the House and the Senate, as well it should be.

  11. Trudeau: a bold move! Brava!
    If it were Harper: “Dictatorial Harper unilaterally dissolves party institution. There must be something big brewing in the Senate for him to suddenly break party constitution! What’s he hiding????”
    It seems Justin’s beloved China-like authoritarian expediency is coming to fruition. It also seems the media’s overt support continues unabated.

    • Trudeau appointed no Senators…Ge wasn’t even an MP when these Liberal Senators were appointed…..Harper appointed 57, all partisan and helped make a further mockery of the so-called Chamber of sober second thought by making patronage and partisan appointments. Trudeau made a bold move today….now its Harper’s turn to respond…

      • Your correct, Justin appointed no one. In fact Justin has done almost nothing in the last 15 years. This helps how? If Justin knew of improprieties in the Senate among his caucus from the outset, but only does this on the eve of a Senate audit report, he doesn’t look principled, he looks like an opportunistic pol trying to save his own skin.
        But lets follow the lead of Wells et al and simply sit back and applaud the “boldness”.
        No need to look further. “Getting to the bottom of it” is for conservatives.

        • I expect Pierre Poilievre is digging as we speak. A desperate search is no doubt on to find someone, anyone who may have seen Justin Trudeau smoke a joint. It’s just the thing to counter Trudeau’s attempt at Senate reform.

          • How about Trudeau being told long ago about Senate improprieties? Then again he could simply declare that he “lost the emails” telling him of that and he’d be let off the hook by the media in any event.

          • That kind of fell flat didn’t it? Hard to believe a Senate staffer wouldn’t know how to direct an email that important away from the Senate Reform folder.

          • It is hard to believe isn’t it. I take it you aren’t aware of the story of the email about the Liberal groper that Justin’s office “lost”?

          • So you’ve left the topic at hand and are now just repeating talking points from months ago – yup the wingnuts are worried.

          • The Liberal caucus just got cut in half, and you think Conservatives are worried? Ha!

          • I’m hoping that they aren’t worried, but I never thought that even the likes of you would be that complacent and stupid.
            Having a Caucus in the Senate never gave the Liberals anything, they were outnumbered in both Chambers. Doing this costs the Libs nothing except maybe a room to meet in; but a failure to act on behalf of the Cons will cost them something with those who aren’t the base.
            Under -estimating your enemy is never very smart but hubris cometh before a fall.

          • Having a Caucus in the Senate never gave the Liberals anything

            Hahahaha. Ya, all those years of experience in various levels of government, campaign management, donor recruitment…. all totally useless! Nobody needs those guys’ input when forming party policy!

            By your reasoning, why doesn’t Trudeau simply disband the Liberal Party of Canada all together?

          • If optics are not something to be “worried” about, then how do you explain Harper’s bizarre, ever changing responses as the Senate “scandal” unfolded?

          • Terribly worried. The hysterical laugher at Trudeau in QP was just fantastic acting masking deep, deep concern.

          • You mean the other two parties laughed at him?

            Wow. That is so….meaningless.

        • “Getting to the bottom of it” is for conservatives.

          Since when? Seems all they do is run away, dodge investigations, and point fingers at others.

          • Yes. Reminds me of Shawinigate that way . . .

          • Yeah, that one didn’t impress me either. But that’s history; this is current affairs.

      • “Harper appointed 57”
        You got a link for this claim?

    • Releasing senators from caucus discipline = authoritarianism. Brilliant. Tell us more.

      • I believe he’s referring to the fact that JT made this decision on his own, consulting nobody (other than his innermost circle – maybe). Not the Senators, not the party which is having a convention within the month, and not his MPs. AND it is possibly against his own party’s constitution, which states clearly that Senators are members of the caucus, and entitled to vote on certain important party functions (like appointing an interim leader).

        All that sort of goes against his supposed commitment to transparency and open consultation, you know?

      • “Releasing” from caucus discipline is a very nice way of saying he didn’t want to hear their dissenting voices in caucus anymore. So instead of consulting with his MPs about the change, he simply kicked them out so he wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore.

        • Because Liberal senators were giving him a hard time about something? I think you need to ask for some new talking points.

          • Maybe (former) Liberal Senators’ expense accounts contain some irregular accounting and Justin is seeking to distance himself from the blast?

          • Unless it’s ALL of them it would have been better to discipline the individuals responsible. I don’t think he’d have gone this route if he thought the investigation will turn up anything significant precisely because it would look like he was trying to dodge a bullet.

    • Nobody outside the party gives a crap what Harper does within the party. Those howls are coming form within his party. That’s why parties are undemocratic in my mind and all of them should be done away with. They stop MPs from representing those who elected them directly.

      • Whenever someone proposes doing away with political parties, I’m reminded of what Harold Koh said once about doing away with lawyers — i.e., that if did that, something else more or less identical in function would come in to take their place. It’s a pipe dream to think that a democracy can function without political parties. Just like it’s a pipe dream to think that any society founded on the rule of law can function without lawyers. Like it or not, they serve a necessary purpose.

        • You’re right. The main necessary purpose they serve, is to ensure their survival and to dumb down the voter so that that happens.
          Democracy can function without parties, it’s just that parties and their operatives want you to think there is no alternative. It’s like saying that prisons can’t run effectively without the race based gangs being in control of the inmates; except the political parties have better PR.

    • ” There must be something big brewing in the Senate for him to suddenly break party constitution! What’s he hiding????”

      Interestingly, that’s exactly the tack Poilevre took today…

  12. Harper ousts a Senator, the media keeps digging to find what he’s “hiding”. Justin ousts the entire Senate on the eve of a Senate audit report, and the media stands back and applauds the “boldness”.
    How utterly sad and pathetic.

    • Is it not somewhat material that Harper is dealing with Senators that he personally appointed, whereas Trudeau is dealing with Senators who were appointed by someone else, before he was elected MP?

      • I’m sure supporters can think of all sorts of reasons why Justin shouldn’t be scrutinized. Who appointed them may be completely irrelevant to the issue at hand. For instance if Justin knew for some time about offending behaviour, but only does this when a bad report is about to come out then he looks opportunistic, not responsible. Of course we already have one instance – the sexual predations of a member – where Justin was summarily excuses. You see, an email to his office alerting of the offending behaviour was not responded to. The explanation that the email was “lost” was accepted whole cloth without further digging by Justin’s compatriots in the media.
        His offer to return funds taken from charities is another example. Only once his leadership run is in swing did he make the offer (a mere offer btw, he’s never actually returned the funds).
        There’s a big difference making a move only after your hand has been caught in the cookie jar. A difference the media surely knows with respect to Harper, but not with their boy Justin.

        • ” he’s never actually returned the funds” The charity in question refused the offer, no?

          • Yes.

            And, technically, the charity in question never asked for the refund to begin with either. ONE member of the Board (with STRONG ties to the Tories) sent a letter to Trudeau’s booking agency asking for a refund AFTER the Board had collectively decided not to pursue a refund.

        • The email explanation actually makes perfect sense given the volumes that they receive. I’ve gotten responses back from politicians months after emailing them. Things get shunted aside if the subject line doesn’t seem like something that needs to be immediately addressed – and you can bet there were a ton with the subject “Senate reform”.

          But then common sense never was a CPC strong suit, so I can understand your skepticism…

        • His offer to return funds taken from charities is another example. Only once his leadership run is in swing did he make the offer (a mere offer btw, he’s never actually returned the funds).

          While politically it likely would have been smarter to return everything, I nonetheless think it’s worth putting this in context. Trudeau offered to give a refund to any group that wanted one, and no group wanted one. Even the Board of the group that started the whole brouhaha didn’t want a refund. The letter asking his booking agency for a refund came from a SINGLE MEMBER of the board (a member with extensive ties to the Tories) and was sent to Trudeau’s booking agency after the Board decided NOT to request a refund.

      • Oh sure like his father ? Or PM’s who were ministers in his father’s government ?

        If you’re elected into office on the sheer strength of your last name you would think your family and political legacy would be relevant ?

        Or does one just get to pick and choose the good parts to be proud of and talk about.

        • People are free to try to hang the appointments of other PMs on Justin Trudeau if they like. All I’m saying is that we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that no one in the Senate was put there by Justin Trudeau, and there are only three Senators left put there by his father, all of whom were appointed before Justin’s 13th birthday.

          ETA: I should perhaps point out that of those three Senators appointed by Pierre Trudeau, only ONE was still in the Liberal Caucus before Justin Trudeau’s announcement yesterday. Cools had crossed the floor to the Tories back in 2004 over opposition to same-sex marriage (she was then kicked out of the Tory caucus too, in 2007) and Colin Kenny left caucus back in November. Charlie Watt was the only Trudeau appointee left in the Liberal caucus at the time Justin made his announcement.

          • Its a fair point if you want to make the limited argument that Harper is a bad manager who makes bad appointments. You can bring in Carson and Taylor and any other names, they certainly tend to pile up after 8 years.

            Most people would brush it off as bad apples. Might fire up the base though.

            That’s separate from the question of whether a negative finding by the AG should reflect on Trudeau’s party. I’d say yes, without question. These people built the party, they still have ties with it – as Trudeau said today they are his personal friends. Nothing that happened today changes any of that.

          • Exactly.

          • I can see how one can argue that a negative finding from the AG about former Liberal Senators can/will hurt the brand. However, there’ll be plenty of blame to go around I suspect, and dismantling the Liberal caucus in the Senate will just further isolate Trudeau and the Liberals from whatever blame attaches to formerly Liberal Senators.

            Perhaps the public will just deem all these Senators as being “bad apples” but I nonetheless rather suspect that, the current composition of the Senate being what it is, there’ll be 2 bad Conservative apples for every 1 bad Liberal apple, and unlike the Liberal bad apples, mostly picked from the tree more than a decade ago by people who used to be Prime Minister back in the 20th Century, almost all of the bad Tory apples were placed in the barrel by Stephen Harper.

        • Certainly the legacy of the Liberal Party is relevant. However, also relevant is the fact that the current leader of the Liberal Party is three leaders removed from the last Liberal PM, who was last PM two years before Justin Trudeau entered Parliament.

          Trudeau may well take some flack for the actions of Senators appointed by Martin, and maybe even for the actions of Senators appointed by Chretien. However, I still think it’s worth keeping in mind that in the last decade there have been 72 people appointed to the Senate, 13 by Martin (including 4 Martin appointments of conservative Senators) and 59 by Stephen Harper. So, sure, Trudeau needs to be a bit worried about what the 32 Senators associated with his party have been up to, but I’d be more worried, if I were the Prime Minister, about what the 59 Senators that I personally appointed have been doing.

    • “How utterly sad and pathetic.”

      You are referring to the fact that instead of your usual half truths and blatant lies in order to change the topic, all you have this time is trotting out the same old tired conspiracy theory about media bias – yes?

      Oh biff. Poor poor biff.

  13. Rule of journalism: if a conservative acts, one must look beneath to find the nefarious real purpose. If a liberal acts, one accepts the stated reason for acting and reports accordingly.

    • You do realize that your sock puppetry would be more effective if you changed the name between making your posts?

      Google “persona management software” and “astroturfing”

      • Who else do you think I’m posting as here? More to the point, I am posting on no other name, which means with absolute certainty you are simply making up a false statement for the purposes of maligning my credibility. Note once again you stay safely away from the substance. Always clear of the substance of my statements.

        • You have credibility?

          • Well judging by the amount of attention the leftists here dedicate to attacking me personally? And the extent to which those attackers fear getting into the merits of my points, but rather stay on the periphery casting personal aspersions? Why yes. It would seem I have an awful lot of credibility around here. Not the kind you like mind you (the kind that parrot simple leftist/’progressive” speak that is).

          • I had no idea that an aversion to continual non-sequitors was a left thing. How come everyone assumes they know what I like?

        • He was replying to charles.

        • My apologies. I was giving you the benefit of the doubt and thinking that you held enough intelligence to understand that you can post multiple paragraphs in a single comment. Thus, your multiple postings, all simply repeating the same idea, didn’t make any sense unless you were trying to astroturf the area.

          That’s been duly rectified, and I understand now you’re just deficient.

          As to substance, as soon as you get around to posting something with any substance to it, I’ll give it it’s due consideration.

          • How rich. You accuse me of sock puppetry, suggest I look in a dictionary, and then reveal that you yourself don’t know what sock puppetry means.
            If you are going to resort to base insults as a form of debate (not recommended as the insulter invariably looks much much worse than the insultee), one would think that the basic minimum would be to actually know the meaning of the insults you are hurling.

          • Kindly point out where I suggested you look in a dictionary? I mean, I might consider doing that at one point, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that you’ll first need to learn how to read what’s actually written before a dictionary will do you any good.

            To your side point, I don’t use insults as a form of debate, as that would imply you’ve said something worth debating here. I use insults as insults. Specifically to point out your deficiencies and hopefully shame you into taking action to rectify them.

          • Silly me, I assumed you meant an online dictionary – that which a google search for the meaning of a word produces. Of course you may have meant I look in google maps, or perhaps online cook books, but surely not online dictionaries. How ridiculous of me to draw such a conclusion. What I love about “progressives” is the inherent honesty of their arguments.

          • My mistake.

            Most people with an intelligence level beyond that of an idiot understand that to Google something is to actually perform some basic research.

            It perhaps should have occurred to me that this is obviously beyond your capacity so you’ve no experience with it. In my defense, however, that was my first response to you so I was giving the benefit of the doubt that you could think better than the average goldfish.

            It won’t happen again.

      • So, how many different “personas” are you managing here at Macleans?

        • None, but saying that doesn’t prove anything now does it?

          Instead, I’ll point out that I’ve argued, on occasion, with just about every other regular user here on one thing or another, and that I spend far too much time as it is on these boards, I simply don’t know how I’d have the time to handle more than a single account.

  14. Let the cognitive dissonance among Harper’s faithful begin: “Yabbut, we already got rid of our bad senators…all three of them”.

  15. So that’s a qualified no from Wells then? I can see how this is going to make for some awkward moments in the Montreal convention this feb.[ dang it i knew i should a went]
    It is a little odd to read in the first serious attempt i’ve read at seeing if this is a genius move or just an unholy snarl in the line – commentary about senators as giving their life to the cause, rather then being blood sucking leaches, bagmen and useless party deadwood. Plead Journalist license i guess? Still, that doesn’t make it any less true. Hopefully Trudeau has thought this out and gotten good advise. I suspect he’s attempting to go over the heads of the media in this case and appeal directly to the part of the public that still cares about institutions and their value in the modern age.[lord help him] Interesting move. The cat’s out of the bag now eh.[ where’ve i heard that before i wonder?] and it’ll be difficult to ever stuff it back in if he ever needs to. My hope is he wont ever have to notwithstanding a few hard feelings. If nothing else Justin has probably just made his first real enemies within the LPC establishment Not a bad thing imo. As someone who thinks a lot of old dead wood should get turfed in the party i’m applauding this move.
    edit: Of course some pundits are going to point out it changes nothing really, which may be true for this crop of senators, but down the road it changes everything. Trudeau may have done some short term damage to his party but the hope is he’s done some long term good for the senate and this country. At last a politician putting country before party. No wonder we are all so confused.

    • Well, who has given more to the party than the bag men? That was certainly the way we’ve been rewarding those men since the days of MacDonald.

      So I agree with scf, in that I don’t think it will changes much in terms of how the senate functions. Presumably, the Liberal party will continue to assign friendlies to the senate when they assume power. I also agree with you, that it seems to be a big snub towards some establishment party figures, who lose some parliamentary perks.

      Idealistic move? PR stunt? Public relations win? Divisive for the party? Any way you slice it, what happens next should be somewhat interesting.

      • No presume about it. Trudeau has explictly said if he has anything to do with it the PM will not be able to just pick and choose who sits in the senate.
        And while they may continue to sit as members individually of the LPC it is hard to see how the bagman, money raising links between the two Houses will remain intact if his senators sit as independents.

        • Well, Harper also said that the PM should not be able to just pick and choose who sits in the senate too. Didn’t stop him.

          Maybe Trudeau is a better man than Harper, but it seems unless you do change the way things work at a constitutional level, then it will be very easy to backtrack on this, as Paul Well says.

          • Trudeau’s announcement today included a proposed non-partisan and public procedure of deciding upon Senate appointments. Assuming he kept that promise, there would be a formalized wall between the PM and the awarding of Senate seats.

          • Yes, but it wouldn’t be legally binding on future PMs.

          • Trudeau said:

            That is why I am also announcing today that if I am elected Prime Minister, I will put in place an open, transparent and non-partisan appointment process for Senators. This process will be developed working with experts and informed by other non-partisan appointment processes

            So no, he hasn’t actually included a proposal for deciding upon Senate appointments. He’s included a proposal for coming up with a proposal. Which is typical of him, promising to fix everything without any indication of how he’ll actually fix anything.

          • It could be worse.. he could be a PM promising to fix everything without any knowledge of if it’s even legal.

          • Good one

          • Sure but Harper has to get his by the SCoC and many think it doesn’t stand a chance. Trudeau has committed to literally putting the selection process in hands other than the PMs. In that scenario find it hard to imagine how he he could ever back track. On this point i think Wells is simply dead wrong. But he’s right to point out the libs would be giving up a lot of partisan territory to the CPC should this go through.

          • Well, politicians have backtracked on a lot of things. Revoking the GST, or never getting around to a national daycare program, not appointing senators unless the provinces elect them, not taking a pension for parliamentary service, etc.

            Sure it is embarrassing for a few weeks, but eventually people get over it.

          • This is what he said he would do: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/justin-trudeau-statement-senate-is-broken-and-needs-to-be-fixed-1.2515374
            So sure he could try to weasel out by saying as soon as he gets in: I can’t do this right now because i need to fight Conservative blockers in the senate. Always a possibility. But once he signs off on his plan to give up that executive prerogative to appoint senators, Canadians will never let him back track…unless it clearly isn’t working in the national interest.

          • Trudeau will simply appoint other Liberals to choose senators. Who will then appoint Liberals to be senators. This is all just smoke and mirrors.

          • He wont get to choose those liberals to appoint other liberals, will he? Or do you imagine JT has every single liberal in the country on the end of a string?…dance little puppet, dance for Justin!
            Paranoid conspiracies about libs under every bed and around every corner looks good on you.

          • So who will choose the choosers then? Will Trudeau put all non-partisan names in a hat and pull out random names? LOL

          • That’s just too easy doofus. There’s already a model up and running in the UK for the HoLs. He could emulate that. He could set up citizens advisory panels as happened in BC over which form of PR the public wanted. There are any number of models a PM might choose form without passing your idiot litmus test. How about letting someone like Manning chair a committee…or would that look like bias in your tiny little world too?

          • You think that Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform Party of Canada, is a non-partisan? LOLOLOLOL

            You think the UK House of Lords is non-partisan? Take a look at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Lords#Current_composition

            Is it the fact that 90% of the members have a party affiliation that makes you think it’s “non-partisan”?

          • Manning doesn’t have to be non partisan, jnor does the selection committee or mechanism of choice…just bi partisan. Where did i claim the HoLs or even an independent senate would be completely non partisan. It is still politics, you cant stop individuals joining the party of their choice. But you can sever the direct political connection between the governing party in particular and its senators. IOWs the Duffsters and the Wallins and Harbs are on their own.

          • Bi-partisan? That means 2 parties, so which of the 3 main parties gets left out?

            Trudeau’s the one who said the selection process would be non-partisan.

            You might want to actually understand what your party leader is saying before going out and cheer-leading for him.

          • True bi partisan doesn’t cover it. Nevertheless your premise is wrong from the start. By your measure anything a. PM does can never be anything less than overtly partisan. This simply isn’t true – witness Harpers reasonable appointment of justices to the SCoC up till now. Here you will notice he has to take into consideration the views of the bar. It’s simply the height of cynicism to suggest a Liberal PM could not set up a non partisan selection committee. And Manning might well be a good choice as chair.

          • Maybe a bipartisan panel? Ever heard of those?

  16. It’s a little something but mostly a big nothing. I assume that the
    entirely separate and independent caucuses will meet in entirely
    separate and independent sound-proof Situation Rooms buried
    in a left-over Diefenbunker and be sworn to eternal secrecy on-
    pain-of-death with any miscreant to be Snowdened.
    A feint and a wink-wink, nudge-nudge. Carry on.

    • Exactly.

  17. Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I fail to see the point of this move. Elections are intended to give the winners some leeway to implement their agenda, and this includes the activity taking place in the senate.

    Secondly, people are free to associate with like-minded people. They can declare themselves Liberals regardless of whether Trudeau says they are. They won’t be turned away at the door at Liberal conventions. When legislation comes their way, they will think like Liberals and act like Liberals. Its’ not like the Liberal caucus will be annihilated by a death ray.

    It’s hard to actually see what is the point of this.

    • 1. Free to vote as they wish – no longer bound by party allegiance.

      2. Eliminates the leader’s power of patronage carrot to dangle over MPs, so the House is tilted a bit back toward empowerment of representatives vs. PMO.

      3. Party caucus is now a reflection of purely elected members, not artefacts of past PM appointees.

      4. Holding private membership or involvement in the party becomes optional.

      5. If Conservatives follow suit, the Senate has a chance of becoming a genuine chamber of sober second thought, not a counting of trained seals’ votes.

      EDIT 6. While perhaps not the final say in Senate reformation, this move has required no Constitutional wrangling, provincial negotiation, etc..

      7. While it might have long term complications, the short term political gain is undeniable. Did you see Poilievre’s ham-handed response? The Libs have managed – from 3rd place – to a) change the Senate, and b) leave the other parties reeling. Whether or not you’re a Trudeau/Liberal backer (I’m not, particularly) you have to admire the tactical dimensions to this.

      • Seems to me with step 5, you are doing the liberal thing, which is to pine for some kind of fantasy utopian world rather than look at the real world.

        The reason parties exist, and the reason people unite together in the house and the senate into parties, is because it works. It allows people to get more of that they want, more of the time. Uniting into a team is not a bad thing. It happens everywhere, not just in the senate, but everywhere. Hockey teams win more games when they play like a team rather than as independents trying to score goals by themselves.

        To think that senators will abandon their own principles and interests and agendas is not realistic. They will be able to advance their principles, interests, and agendas much more effectively if they unite with like-minded individuals.

        • Most Canadian cities and municipalities run without party organization. As does the territorial government of Nunavut. I think (perhaps wrongly) Nebraska’s state legislature runs without parties. Not sure I buy the characterization of a partiless Senate as utopian fantasy. Particularly since the overt purpose of that chamber is to provide regional representation and input to offset the partisan construction of the House.

          • I think you’re being unrealistic in seeing the Senate, as a result of Trudeau’s move, as being any closer to being “partiless”. I totally agree with scf — Trudeau booting a bunch of life-long uber-partisan Liberals out of caucus does not automatically render these people “partiless”. You’re totally falling for the form while ignoring substance.
            Full disclosure: I personally think the Senate should be abolished, so naturally I find Trudeau’s move here to be goofy and about 1/100th of a loaf. It really smells of something half-baked and thought up on the fly. Maybe he’ll score some political points with this, although I personally don’t see the Senate reform issue as something with long-lasting legs politically, however much Duffy-Wallin-Harb etc. has been newsworthy for the last year or so.
            If Trudeau wants to do something truly bold and transformative, he should get behind Senate abolition — but of course that would require him putting a large number of Liberal partisan hacks out to pasture for real, i.e., actually terminating them. That would take real balls.

          • Senate aboltion would open a constitutional can of worms, and I’m not convinced that having a chamber of sober second thought is a bad thing.

            Of course those with Liberal and Conservative ties will tend to support those parties – formal identification or not. However, what I think you’re overlooking is the fact that these Senators are now freed of party whipping. Now and then, one might actually see some independent ideas, debates, and voting patterns. Which is more what I mean by partiless. It’s bit like Toronto ciy council – most councillors are broadly identified with liberal or conservative sensibilities, but the lack of formal party structure leaves them freer to vote in line with their constituents or consciences.

          • Well, once again I guess it’s my bias against an unelected body, but I don’t really see what’s so fabulous about a bunch of unelected lifetime party hacks and bagmen being freed from party whipping. Maybe if they were elected, I’d see some value in it. This is why I see this whole stunt by JT as a lame fraction of a loaf. Your analogy/comparison to TO city council is flawed because those creatures were at least elected.

          • I think this argument misses the point really. I see no evidence that Trudeau thought cutting his senators loose would make partisanship or even party loyalties a thing of the past. The important point is to sever the link between pmo and party bagmen. And of course to eventually remove the power of appointment from the PM.
            No doubt party insiders will find a way around this at some point. But if the institution is to be saved this is one approach and one I much prefer over Harpers.

          • I think there are reasons why parties do not dominate municipalities or territories – because these governments are so small and because the interests are less ideological and more every-day (eg garbage collection and paving roads). As governments get bigger, both in terms of members, but also in terms of budget and power, then party politics becomes more useful and effective.

            It’s true that the Senate is regional, but so is the US Senate, where both party and regional interests are in play.

            I’m just saying… over the course of a government’s term, senators that are more in favour of the government’s policies will know that uniting will result in their own agendas and interests being advanced. They will be able to coordinate with each other to decide upon what is needed and necessary to change legislation as needed and to get legislation through. They know that coordinating this way will give them more power as a group than acting as individuals uncoordinated.

          • Suppose the Liberals win an election and then try for national daycare. Suppose many Senators (previously part of the Liberal caucus) oppose lots of individual elements of the bill, and of course what items some may oppose, others may favour, but for all of them, there are enough flaws to oppose the bill, even though they all support the concept of national daycare in principle.
            What would such a group choose to do in a sensible world? They would unite in order to hammer out what overall changes would be necessary to make the bill palatable to all those who support national daycare.

            Now consider the same forces at work throughout the course of a government’s tenure.

            Many of these senators uniting would be the same set of senators over and over again, people whom we might call “liberals”. Over the cause of the term there might be give and take, with senators trading support on individual items, so that as a whole they are all happier getting their agendas fulfilled more than they would as individuals.

            In a sensible world, we might call them the Liberal senate caucus.

            In Trudeau’s world, these same people would choose never to unite. National daycare would never become a reality because of their failure to unite, and the Liberal agenda in general would not succeed as much as it would had they united.
            Would this actually happen in practice? No – the senators would unite to advance their agendas, they would not pay allow some sort of Trudeaupian campaign tactic to impede their progress.

          • I fully agree that the sorts of dynamics you suggest would be unsurprising. However, even if Senators coalesce into formal or informal parties, there will be much less need for them to carry the banner and policies of the House parties (PMO, opposition, etc..). Which opens the door to the Senate acting as a greater independent check upon government legislation.

            There’s a point where it seems like if the Senate is simply going to be a carbon copy of the House, then there’s really no point having it. I’m open to that idea, but I think it’s worth experimenting with its form first before abolition.

          • You’ve entirely made SCF’s point. Municipal politics are very much partisan. You will often find the same people involved than at the provincial or federal levels. Certain candidates are clearly liberal while others conservative. The machinery lines up with the candidates stripes. The fact that the labels aren’t formally there doesn’t change the political stripes involved.

          • It’s doesn’t change ideologies. I never said it did. What it does change is a) Senators being beholden to a party leader’s commands (being whipped), and enforcing a Senate where votes are in lockstep with the House.

            so no, I haven’t made scf’s point.

      • 1) That certainly doesn’t apply to the current bunch.

        2) What direct power does the PM enjoy over Senators anyway, other than the threat of expelling them from caucus – for whatever that’s worth?

        3) The Senate still isn’t elected. The PM still appoints all of them. It’s just that JT is making a commitment to make future appointments based on a different process – and that’s no more binding on him, or on future PMs, than any other political promise.

        4) In theory, yes. But in practice? Political connections certainly won’t hurt.

        5) I don’t expect that to happen. And Trudeau can’t force it to. If the Conservatives still want to act like a caucus, they will – much like the current Liberal Senators are still going to.

        6) Yes, but how much of a change is it really? It’s not like a single Liberal Senator has lost their seat.

        7) Trudeau caught the other parties off guard for today, certainly. But it remains to be seen whether this will have the political effect he’s hoping for in the longer term. It may be short-term gain for long term pain.

        • The change is rather obvious. It has the potential to break the hold of the pmo over the senate and maybe even sideline party bagmen like Gerstein.
          No doubt smart operators will find a way around this eventually, but it’s a start in the right direction.
          And if you’re of the view that any changes Trudeau might make would be only obeyed through convention and precedent, then i’m afraid you’ll have to take that up with Harper, since that’s exactly what he himself is proposing to do if the court gives him the green light.

      • 1) Senators have always been free to vote as they wish. This changes nothing in that regard.

        2) There are still lots of other patronage appointments available to tempt MPs with. The Senate is not the only one.

        3) Party caucus will lose years of experience, including members who were in government and know the challenges.

        4) Holding private membership or involvement in the party has always been optional.

        6) No constitutional wrangling or provincial negotiation means it also has zero legal standing.

        7) The Liberals have not changed the nature of the senate one bit. Still the same senators, still holding Liberal party memberships. The other parties are not “reeling”. From what I’ve read Harper and Mulcair were openly laughing at this move by Trudeau.

      • Those are awfully good reasons to like this move.

    • it’s about as useful as that Rathgeber guy.

  18. What the hell just happened ?
    Numerous former Liberal senators are wandering around Ottawa asking themselves just that. Who the hell does this young Trudeau think he is ? They have every right to be pi$$ed with the young wantabeleadah. Many of them actively helped his old man and future Liberal leaders become PM and this is the thanks they get.
    Larry Campbell just told some punky Liberal staffer to fvck off, Art Eggleton really needs to use the washroom and now he doesn`t know if he`s allowed there anymore, and somebody could be heard to tell George Baker to STFU.
    Who`s gonna run the campaign offices now —–does young Trudeau not know that Davey and Coutts and Smith and Dawson would ramp up their staffers for years to help out in all those Liberal victories. Who`s gonna do that now—-maybe Justin plans on having several date nights to recruit new volunteers.
    Poor guy will be wore out before the campaign begins.

    • Sour grapes make sour wine, cawm.

      • Oh, I could care less what Trudeau does with his remaining caucus.
        I think it`s the Liberal senators and their staff who are sour. And who could blame them. They held onto their positions as long as they could while the elected Liberal MP caucus was reduced from 200 down to thirty-something now. They were good loyal Liberals who are now being kicked to the curb.
        Some of us still hold out some hope for the return of the unelected Liberal Senators. Maybe Justin doesn`t know what a caucus is. maybe this was just an unprincipled propaganda ploy by him, maybe everything can be quietly reversed at the appropriate time.

        • I suspect the whole charade will be reversed by next week. These guys all still hold LPC membership cards. They’ll continue to meet together and form consensus. They’ll still always vote the way the Liberals want them to vote. The only difference is that when they get into trouble, Trudeau will be able to distance himself from them, and the media will likely let him get away with it.

        • Jeez they can’t still be liberals…who knew! Trudeau set an example by breaking the formal cord to the senate, he didn’t cure partisanship. I predict ordinary Canadians are going to like this move…the Ottawa media? And the chattering class. Meh! Maybe?

  19. It’s a bold move, but I wonder what it accomplishes and indicates.

    Are non-partisan bodies better than partisan ones? I’m not sure that is true (certainly, Justin Trudeau didn’t order his MP’s, who sit in the legislative body that actually matters, to drop their partisan labels). Municipal politics, for instance, are a cesspit of corruption and, though lacking parties, are certainly divisive. Partisan bodies, moreover, need not be divided. In the grand old days of the 50’s and 60’s, for instance, the US Congress was not hardly polarized.

    Parties serve important functions.
    1. They craft internally consistent programmes of government. Inchoate groups of legislators might not do the same (e.g. they might vote for popular things that are at cross-purposes).
    2. They promote accountability. It helps to have institutions that outlive the career of any one politician, so that voters can target their ire in the wake of scandals and corruption. If I were an embattled politician, I might have an incentive to engage in corrupt behavior. However, many members of my party would have a strong interest in stopping me from doing so because they have an interest in preserving the party brand.
    3. They concisely communicate information to voters. People already pay little to politics and know little about our leaders. Following the complex actions of dozens of non-partisan legislators would be much harder than evaluating the record of a political party.
    4, They limit extremism. Parties are led by individuals who, whatever their ideological inclinations, have an interest in winning high office nationally. That entails a lot of broad compromises not required of legislators serving a smaller constituency with more parochial interests.

    And, an aside, if Justin Trudeau wants the senate to be a more effective balance against parliament, then releasing Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus is not a good way to do this.

    My theory is that Trudeau was getting tired of defending Mac Harb.

    • One thing about all of your points is that while they certainly apply to elected politicians, they shouldn’t apply to our Senate.

      Point 1 is debunked because the entire point of having appointed senators for life is to avoid senators feeling they have to vote for “the popular”.

      Point 2 is not terribly relevant except in the case of newly appointed senators. Why has Mac Harb not stuck terribly to Justin Trudeau? Because Justin didn’t appoint him. The “wake” when it comes to senators is simply not long enough.

      Point 3 is irrelevant for obvious reasons.

      Point 4 is debatable. As we’ve seen, parties can form self-reinforcing bubbles around them, ala the tea party, where their influence actually *promotes* extremism, because all they talk to around them are other extremists.

    • My theory is that Trudeau was getting tired of defending Mac Harb.

      Come on. Nobody asks him about Mac Harb anymore. Or Colin Kenny. Nor would they ask about any of the Liberals flagged in the upcoming AG audit report.

      • To be fair, now that Harb has retired, and Kenny is out of the Liberal caucus (that happened in November, not yesterday) is there anything else that Trudeau has the power to do vis a vis Harb and Kenny?

  20. PET confidant Michael Pitfield sat in the Senate as an independent for 27 years, staunch in the belief that his role as a Senator was to be non-partisan. Apropos of nothing, Senator Pitfield is the father of JT confidant Tom Pitfield and father in law of JT confidant and likely future party President Anna Gainey.

  21. That actually sounds like a good idea. It is true that Senators have more freedom of action than MPs do, for the simple reason that nobody can take their jobs away from them, but here’s the rub. They have normally been appointed to the Senate as a reward for loyalty. They can now still be loyal Liberals, or Conservatives, but without a caucus to give them blow by blow marching orders, they can exercise their own judgement with respect to legislation they are working on. I think that if the Conservatives made the same move, then the Senate might just start living up to it’s function as a house of sober second thought.

  22. Mobina Jaffer, (former) Liberal Senator from BC.

    “For a long time this has been necessary. It means now I can now do what I think is correct (and) look after the interests of British Columbians.”

    Asked why she wasn’t always able to do that as a Liberal caucus member, she replied:

    “Sometimes you listen to your House of Commons colleagues as to how politically it would be better to do A or B.”

    That seems rather unseemly for a Senator to say. If they are taking direction from the House instead of being the “sober second thought” they are supposed to be…why are they there exactly? Doesn’t that just make them an unelected extension of the House? Maybe some journalist should look into that.

    Ha, jklol

    • A person who listens to their HoC colleagues and then arrives at their decision afterwards is different form one who receives $90k from the PM’s CoS and does as he is told.

  23. BWah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha h
    head on desk pounding with glee
    ha ha ha ha ha ha hah
    Thanks Jughead!

    • I fear you’ve hit your noggin too hard; you seem to be unhinged. Just hit your hand, ffs.

  24. One thing is abundantly clear. All the labels of Justin being an out-of-touch Ottawa insider divorced from the real world are clearly wrong.
    If it’s one thing struggling families looking to make ends meat discuss around the dinner table (other than perhaps legalizing pot) it’s the composition of the Senate.

    Surely if it titillates the Ottawa “elite” media, it just HAS to be important to those in middle Canada.

  25. Paul Wells:
    You should see the QP clip of Harper’s response on this site. I’ll give you a teaser, everyone’s laughing hysterically at Justin’s latest. I particularly enjoyed the response to Harper’s reading from the Lib Senate leader where he says he’ll still be a liberal.
    Paul, why is everyone laughing. This is a “bold move” that should be taken seriously, no?

    • Everyone isn’t laughing and this would be the same Harper whose minister of veterans affairs made a bold move yesterday. The same Harper whose bold moves have left us deep in debt but with lovely gazebos in Clement’s riding.
      I wouldn’t expect the base to understand the ramifications of this and I would be surprised if Harper ever showed enough humility to actually think how this might affect him in the eyes of the public. That after all is Harper’s weakness.
      Deny, Deflect and chuck someone under the bus when the damage is done; why would he be any different now?

  26. “An NDP staffer this morning was gleeful, because with only 34 MPs and zero Senators, the Liberals may no longer qualify for a caucus room in the Centre Block. It’s not entirely clear how all this will work.”

  27. “An NDP staffer this morning was gleeful, because with only 34 MPs and zero Senators, the Liberals may no longer qualify for a caucus room in the Centre Block.”

    Shows how vindictive and mean-spirited today’s NDP are. It’s why I no longer support them. They forget that they were a small party for their first 50 years.

    • They’ll taste that feeling again.

    • Spoken like a true Liberal.LOL

    • Yup. Mulcair is just a left wing version of Harper.

    • Still astroturfing here Rosanna?

      • Yep. Those pom poms are still waving.

  28. Good move. Now make a motion to dissolve and abolish the senate. So simple even Ottawa might get it right.

    • You have to be simple to think it’s that simple.

  29. The more Trudeau brings in results, and not just cheap talk, the more he aligns with over taxed under represented middle class that makes this country work, the closer he is to becoming the next PM of Canada.

    As a conservative, I am totally disenchanted with Harper and crooks. Trudeau, represent the people who make this country work and you are on the right path. Just need more as Liberals have lied to us int he past. But delivering results and not idle talk is a huge first step in getting my vote.

  30. What is Trudeau thinking of?
    Replacing the current unelected, appointed Senate with yet another unelected, appointed model with no concern for the democratic values/principles of accountability and electoral sanctions!
    Tom Mulcair has it right – abolish the triple-U Senate: undemocratic, unaccountable and useless.
    Seven provinces abolished their Senates – and not even Trudeau and the so-called Liberals are calling for their return!

    • You forgot something:

      Abolish the senate after years and years and years of constitutional negotiations with the provinces and crossing our fingers that this does not lead to another opportunity for separatists to break up the country.

      You guys keep missing that part..

      • Is this the new Liberal mantra: “Don’t try anything that might be difficult”? What inspiration! Glad to hear that the Liberals will always be taking the easy way out.

        • And he scores! Stupie has put it in his own net!
          Ohhhh, the humanity!

        • I guess I should have known the concept would be difficult for you to grasp, but this is about being honest, and giving people the whole story, and not just the part that helps you.

          Like, instead of telling Canadians we should reform or abolish the Senate as though it were a simple task, you could tell Canadians we can do one or the other, but only after we spend years, and countless resources, negotiating that solution, and that there are risks involved.

          But maybe it is just liberals who think that people should be told what they are voting for before you ask them to vote for it.

  31. On Question Period last Sunday the media panel was saying that Trudeau cannot go after Harper on the Senate expenses given his own expense issue. My feeling is that Trudeau will be able to attack Harper’s senate “reform” on an entirely different basis now.

    • Trudeau can try, but he’ll fool absolutely no-one.

  32. We will see how much things have changed over time. No caucus room? Beautiful. Independent Senators not beholden to anyone? Say it ain’t so. Watch the first time the Senators tell Trudeau to pound salt when he tells them he wants them to take a certain position on a piece of legislation. Like Wells says this thing will have unintended consequences and Trudeau will have egg all over his face. Lets see if the media has the guts to follow up to ensure the ex Liberal Senators are truly ex Liberals.

    • Except he is not going to tell them to do anything of the sort.

      • We shall see. What will happen if he wins government in 2015? He will welcome them back with open arms. Otherwise he will have a difficult time getting his legislation passed. Then we will see the hypocrisy.

        • He will only have a difficulty getting his legislation passed if it is bad legislation that is bad for the country.

          Tell me- what is the point of a Chamber of sober second thought when that second thought consists of “do whatever the party leader tells you to do”. Why, the point would be to fill it with your cronies and everyone else to whom you owe a favour. That is what Harper complained about, and yet is exactly what he is doing now.

          Trudeau has proposed the only solution that is consistent with the true purpose of the senate, and does not involve a constitutional amendment.

          Which, I suppose, is why people like you are running around inventing problems for him once he wins the election.

          He will not tell them to vote on party lines.

          • Do you honestly believe that when the Libs had control of the Senate and there was a Conservative government the Libs were not taking their marching orders from Chretien?Give me a break. The Senate has always done what the party they represented wanted. To say otherwise is disingenuous and hypocritical.

          • I never said they were not taking orders from Chretien.

            What I said is they will NOT take orders from Trudeau. See, because he wants to change things. Real, actual, effective change. Not just some empty promises so he can pander to his base and delay their implementation so he can use them to fundraise.

          • You really are a dreamer. These are politicians they will say or do anything to gain power. What will he do if he is elected PM to get his legislation passed when the Senate is comprised of a majority of Conservatives. Over time and the relationship is cut from other members of the Liberal party do you not think some of these Senators will react and even support Conservative legislation? Another point…Trudeau now only has 4 MPs in the West. Not a great way to build support.

          • What conservative legislation will make it into the Senate when there is a liberal government?

            As I said above, bad legislation will not get support. He will have to enact good legislation to do that. Your assumption that everyone is going to base their vote on party lines is exactly what Trudeau’s proposal will address.

            Ignatieff, Dion, Martin and Chretien all had senators in the west. They did not do any of them a lot of good in “building support” out here. Trudeau shows up in small town Alberta and a crowd of people are waiting for him. He does not need senators – he is doing a great job all by himself.

            As for saying or doing anything to gain power – well I guess you must know a little about that considering the differences between Harper’s promises and his actions.

          • If there is a liberal gov’t I assume it will be liberal legislation that will need approval of the senate which will have a conservative majority for some time to come. How will having “independent” senators who are liberals ensure good legislation? Call them what you want they are still liberals.
            Sent from my iPad

          • Well if there is a liberal government and Trudeau does nothing with the senate then there will still be a conservative majority in the senate and a liberal minority. Are you saying the conservative majority will vote down the legislation that the democratically elected MP’s voted for? Because that would be the kind of undemocratic action that Harper complained about all the time when there was a liberal majority in the senate. You are not suggesting conservatives say one thing and do another are you?

          • You are so silly it’s not worth rebutting your comments.

            Sent from my iPad

          • By which you mean, you have lost and you are not man enough to admit it.


          • Nothing of the kind. It just means its a waste of time to keep feeding the trolls.

          • Heh. Your last comment was to insult me and say you are not playing anymore. Which is a pretty good sign that you cannot rebut my point.

            But you can tell yourself something else if it makes you feel better.

            (Because troll would be the kind of poster who decides to resort to personal insults in lieu of actual argument, but perhaps you already know that…)

          • PS – I thought all Harper’s appointees promised they would resign after 8 years…

    • Dear Leader’s face is covered in egg.

  33. The Trudeau /Mansbridge interview is interesting

  34. According to JT, they are no longer Liberal Senators,they are independents.
    So…Even though it will still walk like a duck,quack like a duck,
    Swim like a duck ,and look like a duck,
    It’s no longer a duck because he says so.
    It’s now a …..horse ???

  35. To Harper the Con Senators he appointed are employees of the Con Party, Harper Inc., and their job is to campaign for them while being paid for by us. Would Stephen the megalomaniac ever relinquish his control over them?
    Trudeau’s move is a major game changer symbolically, contrary to the what the Cons say. It’s your move Stephen.

  36. Well, he doesn’t have any brains, but he can always give the voters the old Blue Steel pose…that seems to be enough to fool the media.

  37. And of course this had nothing to do with the upcoming auditors report…
    Must be a doozy if he risked starting another liberal party civil war over it.