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Packing the Senate to reform it


 

About those impending Senate appointments:

It’s certainly another broken promise, which if memory serves was to appoint only elected senators. But the Liberals are hardly in a position to complain since a) they’d have done the same thing, and have for decades, and b) they’re opposed to electing senators, at least under the current setup.  

There is an extra unseemliness in light of the prorogation of Parliament. He is still in law the Prime Minister of Canada, but his legitimacy is under something of a cloud, having prorogued rather than face a confidence vote (although it’s worth speculating whether he would in fact have been defeated in that vote — I suspect the Liberals might well have gotten cold feet on the day, in light of the pasting they were taking in the polls). His spokesman seems to admit as much: they’re making the appointments now rather than wait for the government to be defeated and let the coalition do it. The problem with that explanation: the coalition is not going to defeat them, because the coalition is dead. I think they’re using the coalition threat to justify what they were planning to do anyway. See, for example, John Ivison’s piece in the November 24 National Post — days before the fiscal update.

But it is a prime ministerial prerogative to appoint Senators, and there is no tradition in this country of appointing them on anything but a strictly partisan basis. It’s the Senate, in other words, that’s the scandal.

I’d judge these particular appointments by two criteria: the quality of the appointees, and whether they move the Senate closer to reform or not. On the latter, it’s been reported that Harper will make the appointments conditional on a pledge to support the government’s proposed Senate reforms — stalled for months in the Senate, and dead with prorogation — when these are reintroduced in the Upper House. These would limit Senate terms to eight years and require Senators to be elected to be eligible for appointment; the new appointees would be expected not only to vote for these principles, but to apply them to themselves.  I’d support that, and I don’t agree with my colleage Andrew Potter that this constitutes some sort of improper inducement. If the Prime Minister can insist that they vote with the Conservatives generally as a condition of appointment, he can surely insist they vote with the Conservatives on a particular bill.

So I’m willing to cut Harper a little slack, here. His bona fides as a Senate reformer are not in doubt — indeed, he’s taken considerable flak for it, both in Parliament and in the media. He has appointed only two Senators since he came to power, one of whom was elected (Alberta’s Bert Brown). He’d have appointed more elected Senators, it is fair to assume, had his reform bill passed the Senate. Still, it looks odd: appointing Senators in order to elect them, patronage in the service of reform.


 

Packing the Senate to reform it

  1. Part of why Harper is filling the vacancies is because he has been negligent to create them. His job is up for review and he doesn’t want to give the GG just cause to dismiss. Even if your readers, and others, can be duped into thinking that it was alright to leave vacancies when so many regions are grossly underrepresented according the current numbers to be appointed to each, any way you read his actions they point to negligence. Part of the reforms proposed relate to seat numbers. Well, to leave any vacancies in a province that only has 6 senate seats like BC, on the strength of political posturing that you are honoring an election promise that everyone knows is very difficult to fulfill, not something one party can do alone, well only IDIOTS would cut Stephen Harper slack! Especially now.
    Are you an idiot, Andrew Coyne?

  2. “…there is no tradition in this country of appointing them on anything but a strictly partisan basis”

    Actually, that is not entirely true. While partisan appointments make up a significant number of such appointments, quite a few have been beyond the partisan fray. Does any Canadian believe Romeo D’Allaire, Sandra Lovelace or Tommy Banks are in the Senate by virtue of partisan history?
    Even the rabid partisan Pierre Trudeau saw the wisom in appointing senators of differing political persuasion, Ernest Manning (Social Credit) and Jack Marshall (Progressive Conservative) among them. Harper’s immediate predeccessor appointed no fewer than four political foes within his seventeen appointments.

    The question for Harper is whether, in this current political climate, he will stock the Senate with only Conservative partisans (like Mulroney and Chretien did) or take a(n albeit) slightly higher road in the national interest (like Martin and Trudeau).

  3. The appointments were long overdue and the Liberals would have no basis for complaint EXCEPT that it is, as AC notes, another broken promise.

  4. And seeing as how the Senate itself has been making the most cogent points on the reform issue, appointing people simply because they agree with Harper’s opposing position is foolish. Appoint people from your party with good judgment, not because they’ll bow to your whim.

  5. Let’s sell the appointments to the highest bidder and apply the money to a stimulus package.

  6. My claim was not that asking them to support any conservative measures (e.g. senate reform bills) would be illegal. I’m fine with that. It’s that there have been suggestions floated that Harper would actually ask some of his appointees for their 8-year resignation letters in advance, or that he would demand that they agree to step down and run for election once any reform bill is passed. I don’t see how that could possibly be legal.

  7. His spokesman seems to admit as much: they’re making the appointments now rather than wait for the government to be defeated and let the coalition do it. The problem with that explanation: the coalition is not going to defeat them, because the coalition is dead. I think they’re using the coalition threat to justify what they were planning to do anyway. See, for example, John Ivison’s piece in the November 24 National Post — days before the fiscal update.

    Bingo.

  8. Mark,

    You’re right: I overstated things. But Dallaire, Lovelace and Banks sit as Liberals, no? Doesn’t mean they weren’t fine appointments, but they were still partisan. And at least two of Martin’s appointments, while not Liberals, had another partisan purpose: to sow mischief for Harper’s Conservatives, as they sit as Progressive Conservatives.
    Wikipedia has a useful roundup of Senate appointments by Prime Minister, showing the proportion of pro-Government appointments in the total. Seven Prime Ministers (Mackenzie, Abbott, Bowell, Tupper, Clark, Turner and Harper) have perfect 100% records. Nine more (Laurier, Borden, Meighen, King, Bennett, St. Laurent, Diefenbaker, Pearson, and Mulroney) were in the 90-100% range. The exceptions to the general rule were Macdonald (86%), Thompson (80%), Trudeau (86%) and Martin (71% — though see above).
    Oh, and one Prime Minister appointed no senators at all. I leave it to readers to guess who.

  9. I still wonder whether Harper’s original Bill is Constitutional. The Harper government’s unwillingness to put the Bill before the SCC is quite odd considering the Bill winding up there eventually courtesy of a provincial government appeal is pretty likely. Will be very interested too see who winds up there. John Reynolds? Irving Gerstein?

  10. While I agree the Liberals have no cause to complain about Harper appointing senaters I don’t think that’s going to be the thrust of their attack. It’s going to be…

    A: That he’s being wildly Partisan in his appointments if his appointments are 100% Conservatives (Whereby they can point to past Liberal PM’s less then 100% partisan appointment record). and/or,
    B: That he’s “Stephan Harper – Promise Breaker”. There is absolutely zero way that anyone who isn’t wearing partisan blinders can legitimately see this as anything less then a total flip flop/broken promise on his part.

    Just for the record I favor either abolishing the Senate or leaving it as is. I’m not of the opinion that the legislative paralysis we frequently see in the United States is something that we should be adopting.

  11. I’d guess Kim Campbell appointed no senators.

  12. Oh and Campbell made zero appointments did she not?

  13. This is all a moot point, as any Senate reform will fall into the same trap as the (un)Fixed Election Date bill. It will either be toothless by saying the GG is free to act on any advice at all from the PM, or it will be unconstitutional by restricting the rights of the GG and even attempting to force Senators from their seats.

    Nevermind that elected Senators are probably a bad idea. I’d rather see a cross-partisan appointment process similar to what we have for the SCC to help select more thoughtful, less partisan senators.

  14. We’ve already seen what he thinks of this promise – appointing a party bagman to the senate and cabinet in one stroke. Lets see if he can combine some of his other talents, like offering a senate seat to only people with eight years to live, with the promise of a (dr. evil voice) $1 Million dollar life insurance policy…

  15. I think you’re right to point to the Ivison piece and the fact that Harper has been looking to do this for a while. I’m a little more cynical regarding his stated objectives, though.

    I think Harper is looking to have his cake and eat it too – Make those partisan Senate appointments (and reaping the usual benefits), but still have people believe that his Bona Fides as a Senate reformer are beyond reproach.

    Much the same way the fiscal update was probably designed to insulate him from criticism that he ran a deficit (by allowing him to claim that he ran a deficit at the behest of the opposition because they wouldn’t support his package that would have put us in surplus), he’s trying to have it both ways with the Senate appointments. All that remains to be seen is whether it blows up in his face as badly.

    I actually hope it doesn’t – or at least not as much – because these appointments need to be made, and they should be Tory appointments by a Tory leader.

  16. The Liberals don’t have to complain about it. The story is out there without them saying a word – every newspaper is covering it, and I just watched it as the lead story on Duffy. The smartest thing for the Liberals to do is keep quiet and get out of the way of the story.

  17. I guess someone should have told Carolyn Bennett…

  18. Sorry.

    Dr. Carolyn Bennett.

  19. What, no mention of the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that Chretien, Martin and the Liberals stole $54 billion from the EI fund to create their false budget surpluses?

  20. The SCC said no such thing.

    RTFA

  21. “…there is no tradition in this country of appointing them on anything but a strictly partisan basis”

    Tell that to Paul Martin and Hugh Segal.

    His bona fides as a Senate reformer are not in doubt

    Really, Andrew? I think you know better than that.

    The package he’s trying to push through now is piecemeal, and quite possible unconstitutional. If he was truly serious about Senate reform, he would sit down with the provinces and negotiate a constitutional reform package with the provinces that truly reforms the Senate: election, distribution of seats, and the balance of powers between the executive and the houses of parliament.

    But he hasn’t done that. Instead he is trying to ram though little bits of legislation to make it seem like he’s serious about Senate reform, in order to placate his base.

    But I believe strongly that piecemeal Senate reform is dangerous. It needs to be all or nothing. Right now the Senate is loath to use its substantial power, cognizant of their un-elected status. A mixture of elected and un-elected Senators will lead to two classes of Senators, some willing to use that power, others lacking the legitimacy.

    Also, certain regions, such as BC, are seriously underrepresented in the Senate. There needs to be redistribution. That can only happen by constitutional amendment. And it will mean other provinces having to give things up. That can only happen through the give and take of a full negotiation of reforms. And if you leave redistribution for some mythical future date, then you will have BC and other regions under-represented in a newly elected, powerful, legitimate Senate. That’s unacceptable.

    But if you got ahead and make it elected now, and put in term limits, you remove much of the impetus for the constitutional changes, which will only serve to entrench the regional disparities and fuel regional anger.

    So that’s a wordy way of saying Stephen Harper’s bona fides as a Senate reformer are not only very much in doubt, he’s actually putting in a roadblock to the real, needed Senate reform.

  22. The worst thing he can do is make the senate “relevant” and “accountable”.

    This country can’t afford a second set of “relevant” and “accountable” parasites. With relevance and accountability come the will and the means to siphon off even greater amounts of money from earners’ and savers’ pockets and shove it into the pockets of non-earners and non-savers.

    If PMSH succeeds, then when the Commons wastes billions on farmers and car companies (or whatever bunch of welfare bums to whom they feel relevant and accountable), the senate will have to demonstrate it’s relevance and accountability by shoveling more money into ACOA and the gun registry (or whatever). The country will not last very long if it is tag-teamed like this.

    Perhaps the PM is in a sneaky way trying to do the country a favour by bankrupting the central govt more quickly than it would if left lurching along under the status quo – accelerating its inevitable breakup into smaller, less socialistically bloated and less obnoxiously pretentious and nationalistic principalities. Helping the people along by giving them exactly what they asked for, good and hard. Clever monkey.

  23. The Court said they had the right to do it.

    They didn’t say it was the right thing to do.

    They weren’t asked that.

    Nobody was asked that.

  24. Im sure Harper takes no joy in loading up the senate, his ideological self let senate appointments languish in neglect for a reason. Judging by some of his comments with Mansbridge, he is gripped with an almost paranoid obsession that the opposition will execute some master plan/conspiracy coup takeover by non-democratic means. SO out of perceived necessity, he eliminates a possible avenue of coalition abuse. Harper at bottom believes the opposition is decadent , that their political debauchery will stop at nothing; Haprer seems to have little self-interest and operates in an animus of good vs evil, so the idea that the coalition is dead is like saying that political corruption is dead, for Harper.

  25. Question: How is their agreement enforceable? I mean if Harper comes to me and says – you have to retire in 8 years, is he going to make me sign a binding contract? Would the contract in fact be binding? Same deal with the voting – can he make you sign a contract that says you have to vote in a certain manner? Would that be acceptable to the Canadian public?

  26. All Heck Brakes,

    “This country can’t afford a second set of “relevant” and “accountable” parasites. With relevance and accountability come the will and the means to siphon off even greater amounts of money from earners’ and savers’ pockets and shove it into the pockets of non-earners and non-savers.”

    Now you have me wondering about the value of all those earners you’re defending against the parasites. Doctors and plumbers are good. Lawyers are… well… lawyers. How many of the rest are parasites too? Like my financial adviser for example? Or the b*stard who sold me my last car, or the people that ran the company that made the piece of junk?

    Yeah, you’re right, 99% parasites.

    Sincerely,

    Stu Pididiot

  27. If Wajid Khan goes to the Senate, will he get to table is long overdue report?

  28. (Mackenzie, Abbott, Bowell, Tupper, Clark, Turner and Harper)

    And here I thought we only had the one Bowell for Prime Minister. But we have two — and they’re both Conservatives!

  29. Would that be like a Bowell Movement?

  30. You are not forced to pay any particular doctor, lawyer or plumber. Your relationship with them is mutually beneficial, or symbiotic.

    You are forced to pay the people who live off your taxes even when they do nothing for your benefit. That is the definition of a parasite. The key factor which makes it thus is that governments enjoy a coercive monopoly. Plumbers do not, nor do the people serving you coffee at Timmy’s. Teachers, doctors and lawyers are somewhat monopolistic, but the extent to which you are forced to deal with them, as a class, is entirely due to the power over you which government has granted them.

    In theory you could vote in a better class of parasite, but in practice there will always be better organized and more desperate people who will with relative ease succeed in electing parasites which are a good deal more bloodthirsty and unscrupulous than what you would prefer. That is why democracy is the most dangerous and unstable form of government.

  31. Liberals use the requirement of constitutional negotiations for Senate reform as an excuse to not reform the Senate.

    With Harper’s gradual approach, — which, by the way, can only be achieved if he has a majority in the Senate — he at least takes the first step.

    And I have been of the belief that putting elected members in the Senate will eventually force the provinces to negotiate things like regional distribution. Nothing else will. And I think Liberals know that.

    As for constitutionality, I’d just love to watch the Supreme Court kill a process of democratic reform after it’s already been implemented. That’s why you do reform first, then ask Supreme Court justices later.

    Oh, and I’m also of the belief that an elected Senate serves as a check on majority governments. The other alternative in democratic reform, which is proportional representation, is a recipe for permanent minority government and less stability.

  32. Nowhere in your otherwise fine piece – hard as you drilled this nerf ball at pm privilege, no Gorffwysfa furnishings were ever under serious threat – did you address the issue that absorbs us all: are we any closer to seeing the back of the grey eminence slouching off the hill anytime soon.

  33. AC

    You have recently cut Harper slack on avoiding a confidence vote, breaking his own fixed-election law, a grotesquely partisan financial update and his inability to spit out a straight story on the existance of and response to the recession and now this. I know, as per your usual response that you have criticised Harper without condition in the past but it has been a bit. Given the seriousness of the list he gets away with where is or what is the nature of the transgression that would garner outright criticism?

    Also the libs can’t criticize Harper for once again abandoning principal in favour of solely partisan decision making because they disagree with him? Please.

    On an somewhatn related matter why is a hyper-partisan Conservative now blogging along journalists on Maclean’s?

  34. To be fair, he’s not blogging much.

  35. To be fair, he trashes Harper all the time. Some people get disappointed, however, when you don’t follow the Kady O’Mally/Aaron Wherry approach of bashing Harper 24/7.

  36. Dennis, you better believe that the SCC will strike down any legislative attempt at Senate reform that isn’t completely hollow. You seem to suggest that the SCC will bow to political pressure on something so fundamental as interpreting what is explicitly stated in our Constitution.

    I’m also pretty sure that this Senate reform will leave almost everyone unhappy, as it would legitimize a Senate with vast regional imbalances. And you expect a subsequent Constitutional negotiation to be agreed to by Quebec and Ontario? In exchange for what? Do you actually expect such a constitutional amendment to pass?

    It’s all pure fantasy, designed to keep your eye off the ball.

  37. Andrew, our prime minister has the sole power to appoint Senators. If he chooses to do it through elections, then all the power to him. And don’t kid yourself that the SCC always acts in a political vacuum.

    “And you expect a subsequent Constitutional negotiation to be agreed to by Quebec and Ontario? In exchange for what?”

    We’re talking down the road here. First, provinces like Alberta and BC would elect Senators. They would have a legitimacy that Ontario and Quebec Senators wouldn’t. That might lead to Senatorial elections in Ontario and Quebec. Once the body has power, you can bet that the public would demand it be representative. A referendum on the matter somewhere along the way might help, too.

    Do I think it’s possible that Harper truly doesn’t believe in an elected Senate? Yes. Do I still think gradual reform is probably the way to go? Yes.

  38. Eliminating the Liberal senate appointments in case of senate out of the way is showing that Harper is getting ready to stand up to the coaltion forces. He is getting prepared to lose the budget vote in January. Stimulating the economy by a 1-2% GST cut will be wildly supported by the electorate and drive the Liberals crazy. The Liberals will be put in a position to have to defeat the government for giving $5-6 Billion stimulus to the taxpayers rather than the 6B to the big 3 auto and Quebec forestery.

    The coaltion will mess up Libs and NDP for a generation and after GG gave permission to poroque there is no reason to think that she wouldn’t let call an election if the budget is defeated. Good Luck running on raising GST or not cutting it.

  39. editted

    Eliminating the Liberal senate appointments in case the budget is defeated is showing that Harper is getting ready to stand up to the coaltion forces. He is getting prepared to lose the budget vote in January. Stimulating the economy by a 1-2% GST cut will be wildly supported by the electorate and drive the Liberals crazy. The Liberals will be put in a position to have to defeat the government for giving $5-6 Billion stimulus to the taxpayers rather than the $6B to the big 3 auto and Quebec forestery.

    The coaltion will mess up Libs and NDP for a generation and after GG gave permission to poroque there is no reason to think that she wouldn’t let call an election if the budget is defeated. Good Luck running on raising GST or not cutting it.

  40. Dennis, such elections will be pleasant fiction and glorified consultation. Nothing stops a PM from ignoring the senate ‘election’ law any more than ignoring fixed election dates. I expect both laws to be struck down in due course in whatever respect they attempt to bind the actions of the GG or Senators. I doubt such laws can even really bind the Prime Minister (if so, Harper is in trouble for calling an illegal election).

    You really have to realise that any redistribution of Senate seats would be just about completely impossible to pass as a constitutional amendment referendum. It would have to come at so high a cost that I doubt it would be worth it. If anything, going down that road will lead to Meech III, and could very well destroy the country. All in the name of having 100 more clowns like Poillievre in Parliament Hill?

  41. “And don’t kid yourself that the SCC always acts in a political vacuum. ”

    I wasn’t kidding. The SCC will never rule a law constitutional when it explicitly contradicts the Constitution–this isn’t exactly same-sex marriage or child pornography as artistic expression. All Senate reform must be enacted through amendments to the Constitution, or they can be done away with in a heartbeat by a hostile Parliament.

  42. There’s all kinds of examples of the SCC deferring to Parliament so long as the legislation can be read in a Constitutional way.

    I’m not saying the SCC won’t strike it down, but I’d hardly say it’s a forgone conclusion.

  43. Here’s my prescription:

    1. Abolish it (it’s one of the few things I agree with McGuinty on)

    or

    1. Recast 100 seats in proportion to the provincial populations, with 1 minimum seat per territory/PEI and no minimum seats for QC.
    2. In provinces with less than 10 seats, elect by STV as at-large members
    3. In provinces with more than 10 seats, divide the electoral areas into equal numbers (allowing for odd numbered totals obviously) and do a similar at-large STV election.
    4. Elect to fixed terms of six years
    5. Provide the Senators with powers equivalent to the UK Parliament Acts, with the Commons retaining ultimate supremacy.

  44. Considering that Mr. Harper himself said during his campaign that he would have to consider appointing senators who were not elected, I don’t think there’s any need to even cut him any slack on this one. This isn’t a broken promise, this is growth and change. These are as valid for a politician as they are for anybody else.

    Okay, you can argue the purpose for which he’s seeking to appoint senators makes a mockery of the whole thing, but no more so than campaigning to run a government for the purpose of tearing the government down.

    I like the Senate. I like that it’s appointed by the governing party, and even that those appointments tend to be partisan. As pointed out, those partisan principles tend to die down when they realize they don’t have to be in perpetual campaign mode and understand that there’s bigger goals for the country. But I think the senate is a good way to represent the character of Canadians over time, protecting us from any fad political swings of the day, and at the same time adapting so that real, long-term change in the Canadian character is properly reflected.

  45. why thwim thats positively Tory of you.

  46. Packing the Senate to Reform it, would not work…. Hello? Any sitting PM who has it stacked in his/her favour would have it easy… Brian Mulroney packed it…. for just that reason… The Senators would not give up their jobs and influence easily…. besides it would still take Constitutional Change…. and no sitting PM would allow an elected Senator unless he could fix the vote via candidate selection or he or she would be right back to square one…. am I right here or what? It’s a game Andrew to take the heat of the real issue of the day…. “It’s the Economy Stupid (s)” or am I missing something?

  47. Mark Dowling…. I like everything about your proposal except Rep by Pop. We already have Ontario controlling the HoC. What I would like the senate to do is to protect the rights of a region. Right now we have the 4 Western provinces with no representation or realistic hope for representation in the Liberal party. The regional based Liberal party (2008) basically was running a campaign on the Green Shift having Western resource wealth paying for Eastern Urban social engineering projects. But for the good fortune of having an obviously flawed leader who was unpalatable to Quebec and Ontario voters outside of Toronto this platform could win. With Trudeau/ Chretien or some other mythically personally popular Liberal leader this party could be in a majority situation with no votes required west of the Manitoba border.

    I would like the West to have enough representation in the Senate that it could block such mean-spirited cash grabbing policies that are so blatantly obvious.

    While the other minority positions (aboriginal, gays) are protected by the Liberal appointed SCC the minority red-necks in the West are on their own. I do not see the SCC knocking down the Green shift or in the past the NEP as an attack on the minority (hate crime?) by the majority.

    Reconfirming the power of Upper Canada with a Rep by Pop senate (elected or otherwise) does not provide the checks and balances required.

  48. Ryan Your plan does work …. but why call it GM? Give the $3B line of credit to a group of successful Canadian entrepreneurs (Stronach/Baislie?) who would come in and buy up the GM assets in bankruptcy for pennies on the dollar and offer the skilled UAW workers the same deal ( or lesser deal with some form of ownership) as Toyota workers currently get.

    Part of the conditions on the Line of credit is that they have to make cars (no mandate on electric/ hybrid etc) that meet emmision and fuel economy standards.

    Failing that, offer the same deal to Toyota/Honda.

    I believe that a new organization is preferrable to restructuring the people/organization who got GM to the edge of the cliff in the first place.

  49. OOPs ^^^^^^ got the wrong forum ….. belongs in the auto bailout

  50. Still, it looks odd: appointing Senators in order to elect them, patronage in the service of reform

    Funny, that’s how my history books say they reformed the House of Lords in 1910. And how Roosevelt got the New Deal past the USSC, by the way.

  51. Andrew, I think you are much too sanguine about the long-term implications of the constitutionality (in a conventional sense), of what has transpired thus far since the Fiscal Update and what appears likely to follow soon.

    Imagine December 2005; just before Jack Layton pulls the plug, Mr. Martin seeks and obtains a prorogation of Parliament, just to allow him time to pull together an Accountability Act which the oppostion may approve. Pending the return of Parliament, he then proceeds to fill all Senate vacancies and provincial superiour court openings. The politics may be different, but I defy anyone to suggest the constitutionality (again in a conventional sense), of such acts would have been in any way different from the analogues of December 2008.

    We now have a sitution where a Prime Minister has obtained prorogation on the eve of a non-confidence vote which would very likely have gone against him, and now intends to fill a number of high offices, Senate seats for starters. And if that is not violative of constitutional convention, why not fill the Supreme Court vacancy before January 27, and any number of provincial superior court openings? As the Supreme Court seat is sole gift of the PM, via the GG, would the appointment of a seriously conservative lawyer or justice, a strict constructionist, so to speak, be objected to on constitutional grounds, or on policy only?

    Most of the comments of those above concern the politics of the potential appointees, few are concerned with the constitutional legitimacy of the process. But I ask, at what point can we say that the process has been pushed too far, that Her Excellency must say no, or is there no such point? And if there is no such point, then all that we have been taught about the efficacy of the reserve powers of the Crown is so much nonsense, and a PM willing to push the boundaries truly has no check.

  52. Historically a very small number of appointments to the Senate have been non-partisan.

    I believe it is worth noting that those rare non-partisan appointments typically occur when the sitting PM’s party already has a majority in the Senate.

    That is definitely not the case now with the Conservatives only holding 20 seats in the Senate compared to 58 for the Liberals.

  53. vern:

    Or, imagine that in May of 2005 Paul Martin ignores a non-confidence vote against his government. Then survives a later vote by inducing Stronach to cross the floor. All this allows Paul Martin to persist as PM until the autumn.

    Imagine then, that while Parliament was not sitting during that summer, he makes 8 appointments to the Senate.

    Except that you don’t have to imagine it. That’s what happened.

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