Senate appointments, and Harper’s core



Senate appointments, and Harper’s core

Conclusive word today that the Prime Minister plans to appoint a passel of new senators sometime soon raises the question of what’s left of the original Stephen Harper.

I would argue that five categories of conviction seemed to define Harper at various points before he became prime minister, and he’s now a changed man on all of them:

1. He applied a critique to the functioning of Parliament that was reformist in the Albertan style. The Hill needed to be changed, and change would start with an elected Senate. Now, that commitment is, at the very least, attenuated.

2. On the closely related subject of provincial status within the federation, he believed in strict equality of the provinces. But he bent nearly to the breaking point on that one back when he approved of then prime minister Paul Martin’s “asymmetrical” 2004 health care accord. His biographer, William Johnson, said that shift showed that Harper was “willing to go a long way to curry favour” to win Quebec votes.

3. When it came to hard decisions in foreign policy, and especially concerning foreign wars, he was resolutely for standing, as he once said, with “our British and American allies,” and against being buffeted by public opinion. His decision to pull out of Afghanistan in 2011, presumably leaving the U.S. and British there to carry an even heavier burden, seems to leave that doctrine shredded.

4. His free-market economic ideas, I heard him say in 2004, meant getting Ottawa “out entirely” of the “corporate welfare and industrial subsidy” business. But his government has maintained, for example, aerospace and defence subsidies, and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says an auto package is “obviously” going to happen. So much for what Harper suggested was his bedrock economic-policy tenet.

Back in April 1998, when he was president of the National Citizens Coalition, Harper said he had come around to respecting the old Progressive Conservative “penchant for incremental change and strong sense of honourable compromise.” Perhaps I should have included this as a sixth core conviction of his, maybe the last one standing.


Senate appointments, and Harper’s core

  1. Attenuated. Couldn’t use that word to describe Harper’s girth — until this recent “crisis” at least.

  2. I know. You want “Iggy” for boss and all those patriots who stand behind him.

    Somebody said earlier today that the left was going to go bonkers now that they had a new leader.

    I guess they were right.

  3. Harper would be an idiot if he didn’t appoint senators.

    He’s put it off as long as possible, to the point that the Senate is becoming more dysfunctional than ever.

    And he’s been fought just about every step of the way on doing anything about reforming the senate, by just about everyone, but particularly by the Liberals…and more to the point, by Liberal senators.

    How Canadians, who think self-righteously we’re the end all, be all of democracy in this world, can tolerate an unelected senate is beyond rational explanation by anyone with at least three working braincells.

    Besides, I’ll take 18 Conservative senators over one Liz May every time.

  4. Geezus, Harper still believes those things, he is just trying to do what he can in a minority government, and handicapping future Conservative leaders by allowing the next government to flood the senate is not pragmatic.

    Harper has not changed at all, you just refuse to see the obvious.

    For instance, if he drops corporate welfare in the next budget, his government will be taken over by a coalition of big-government welfare junkies (Libs and NDP), no doubt about it.

    In previous budgets, he was also under the gun to produce something that would not bring down the government, hence his position on the health care accord and corporate welfare for those budgets.

    The Afghan switch was part of his strategy to win the previous election.

    Clearly, he is willing to take an incremental and pragmatic approach with his convictions, which has allowed him to win the last two elections.

  5. What happened to the fifth category?

  6. Just in time for Christmas! Senator Jim Keegstra!

  7. sf: your point shows exactly why there is a perception of his “secret” agenda and why he can never be allowed to have a majority…

  8. Jack,

    I’m not of the left, but I sure am going bonkers. I think it’s stephenharperphrenia.

  9. What’s left of the original Harper?

    Not much. Even less if he’s circumcized.

  10. WTF? Not a single, solitary Conservative is upset with this? SFs justification post says it all. But just remember, all Liberal leaders are liars, because M. Dion did not go into the election promising an NDP coalition. Harper, on the other hand, can do whatever the hell he likes no matter what he’s said in the past, and that’s just fine and expected.

    In this particular case, it IS just fine, but I’ve always been on the side that thought he should have appointed Senators as the positions became vacant. Not that I mind the idea of some consultation with the provinces beforehand if that’s what he wants to do, but I don’t think he ever needed legislation to do so.

    I guess that’s the difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. When a Liberal leader does something we don’t like, we say so. You Conservatives are either frightened or sheep.

  11. Andrew Coyne.

  12. David
    Dec 11, 2008 18:22

    What’s left of the original Harper?

    Not much. Even less if he’s circumcized.

    Anyone ever tell you you’re a total weirdo?

  13. Question

    Do you think Stepan Dion is a closet separatist?

  14. Yes, Christoph! Frequently!

    You should check into a humour transplant.

  15. I make it 4 points of conviction plus 1, not 5, plus 1. Altho I have found with the Con’s expediency always takes the upper hand over conviction. Repetition is what most of them think it is conviction. Or conviction is something that happens to criminals. No wonder they are confused. The Cons, that is. That is why they are called cons, because of all their convictions. Have another drink of Kool-aide kids.

    Springer, there is much more to democracy than simply voting for a position. A simple and simplistic mistake you and most uneducated cons make, including Harper and his mouth-bots.

  16. Oh, I forgot,
    Isn’t Duffy supposed to get a senatorship for all that good partisan style errr reporting he’s done the past couple of years or so. He’ll be sooo disappointed if he’s passed over.

  17. The right thing to do is for Liberals to appoint Liberals,

    and……Conservatives to appoint Liberals,

    such that the upper chamber…ahem….fully reflects the near unanimous democratic support the Liberals now enjoy.

    If Harper doesn’t appoint even more Liberals, then he is most assuradly “unprincipled”.

    (disclaimer – “principled” is defined as wholly supporting, and only supporting the Liberal cause even if that cause is the opposing party)

  18. How many points for Liberals cheering the decades long appointment after appointment of Liberals, such that the upper chamber is nearly inundated with Liberal patronage,

    now decrying a few CPC appointments as the latest crime against humanity?

  19. Kody, what did I tell you about multi-posting?

    You’ll go blind, son.

  20. Kody, it’s just such an obvious last ditch effort to do something positive for the Conservatives. He’s supposed to be working on the economy and then this. Sure, there are considerably more Liberals than Conservatives in the senate, but that’s essentially because Canadians have elected the Liberals for quite a long while now.

    It’s not so much “what” Harper’s doing, just the timing of it. No one is really decrying it as undemocratic, rather it’s more of a point in which we’re all simply recognizing what Harper is now recognizing: his time of leading this country is now over.

  21. I think PM Harper announced this latest debacle to take the heat off the news that many Canadians will be losing their homes in the next 6 months, and Harper and Flaherty didn’t and still won’t (don’t have to now that government is defunct er prorogued) tell Canadians what they knew.

    Bah humbug on senators! Canada’s in crisis and Harper and Flaherty want to spend another $600 million for senators and another election.

    Like Harper said though, there’s some opportunities out there.

  22. “WTF? Not a single, solitary Conservative is upset with this? SFs justification post says it all. But just remember, all Liberal leaders are liars, because M. Dion did not go into the election promising an NDP coalition. Harper, on the other hand, can do whatever the hell he likes no matter what he’s said in the past, and that’s just fine and expected.”

    1. I oppose senate reform in the first place. The problem being that Canada already faces gridlock with a minority parliament. That would get even worse with a triple E senate.

    2. I think, like supporters of senate reform, nobody actually believed it will ever happen.

    3. Harper’s preferred mode of senate reform – having provinces hold elections – is obviously unworkable anyway, because no province save Alberta has performed senate elections.

    4. Most conservatives support senate reform because the senate is a Liberal-dominated institution. They probably actually prefer a Conservative-run senate to a triple-E one.

    If I were to take a guess at the average Alberta reformer-Conservative’s preference structure it would be…

    Triple E senate > No senate > Conservative-dominated senate > Liberal-dominated senate

    So appointing 18 senators is an improvement over the status quo, a Liberal-dominated unelected senate.

    • Except it isn’t. Because even these 18 aren’t enough to tip the balance. So for those who really believe in senate reform, this is a slap in the face for nothing.

  23. Actually, it goes like this:

    Anything Harper does, no matter how wanted or popular (eliminating funding to parties, or appointing a few CPC to make the upper house slightly more representative of the popular will while the Libs oppose senate reform, for example),

    will be viewed as some nefarious act.


    Why? Today’s left has become completely reactionary (and in the process has become totally unhinged). The problem is the public starts to tune out the constant cries of the Left (including the left leaning media) telling us Harper is making the sky fall.

    The result:

    One of the most popular conservative governments in our History.

    I’ll repeat that as some may gloss that one over in their anti-Harper derangement:

    One of the most popular conservative governments in our History.

    • Better than the last one certainly. But just barely. But worse than John A. and Diefenbaker.

      That doesn’t leave a lot.

  24. kody – enjoy your poll numbers while they last kody. that’s the only thing harper has left.

  25. I find it interesting that in the Toronto Star article, constitutional experts reacted to news of Harper’s senate appointments with: “‘He has the power to do it, but he shouldn’t have the gall,’ scholar says of 18 appointments.”

    Where were those same efforts on the coalition? They said “Dion has the power to create a coalition” but left out anything about gall (considering how massively unpopular the coalition was, this was hardly an oversight). Anyhow, since when are constitutional experts licensed to discuss gall – that is for the public to decide for itself.

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