Stephen Harper abandons Senate reform. Again.

Wells: The PM had his answer to the Supreme Court ready six months before they ruled

Stephen Harper responded to the Supreme Court ruling on Senate reform, surprisingly quickly, by abandoning his reform plans. But what if the prime minister had used his most important speech of the past year to write off Senate reform — months before the Supremes delivered their opinion?

It sounds like a tantalizing hypothetical, but it’s actually what happened. At last November’s Conservative convention in Calgary — with 3,000 Conservatives in the hall, dozens of reporters watching, and at least many thousands more in a nationwide television audience — Harper abandoned any serious Senate reform project. And not a lot of people noticed that’s what he was doing. All he did today was to repeat the gist of what he said in last November’s speech.

Here’s what I wrote back then

This speech appeared to be an abandonment of Harper’s Senate reform agenda, disguised as defiance and wrapped in shopping lists.

 “This is the only party that has tried to reform the Senate,” he said. “We were blocked by the other parties in the minority parliaments. And now we are being blocked in the courts. So, friends, it is time for the Senate to show it can reform itself.”

 And what was the sum total of this Senate self-reform agenda? “Suspend those Senators without pay!”

I went on to note that the courts had not “blocked” the Conservatives’ Senate reform plans. One court — the Quebec Appeals Court — had described a process for limiting terms and holding consultative elections that would require the consent of at least 7 provinces. The Supreme Court decision lay well ahead, but it was likely to be similar (in the end, it was almost identical) and Harper had plainly already decided he didn’t want to go down that path. That’s why he now defined “reform” as “dock Mike Duffy’s pay.”

This explains why Harper had such a quick response to the Supremes today. They’d given the response he expected. Or perhaps more than that. It took him six years to even get up the energy to send this reference to the Court. He has been singularly listless in pursuing his reform agenda. Maybe he just needed a No so he could drop the whole notion. Maybe this is the response he wanted.




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Stephen Harper abandons Senate reform. Again.

  1. “Maybe this is the response he wanted.”

    Would not be at all surprised.

  2. Harper new like a million other Canadians what the outcome was to be, its was all about trying to look like you were doing something while you get nothing done. Im amazed at the intellect of some of the authors that write this crap about the most arrogant and corrupt PM in Canadian history(the RCMP report dosn’t change my mind one bit). How stupid can these authors be to see Harper as a skilled PM, I hate say it, but he usually waits to here the fluff from people like Wells, Ibbitson and Ivison before he(harper)makes comments(sometimes harper waits to here from the at issue panel). Harper just sits back in his office with his Paul McCartney(the guy who protested the seal hunt on his doorstep)mug, like the lighthouse keeper, he must use smoke signals to communicate with the provinces, I have to say, I find it a bit freaky looking at a PM in his office with no use of technology what so ever sitting either on his desk or in his surroundings, he reminds me of the May Tag Man.

    • well, lets not forget that Roger Ramjet “owns” the voices of Macleans, and gues who “owns” Roger ?
      ;)

  3. All it really took was for Justin to call his bluff.( and Duffimania of course) I’m shocked its taken someone this long to do it, regardless if whether Trudeau’s own proposal passes the SC sniff test. ( for sure he won’t wait 8 years to bench test it)
    One more sign that SH may be finally on the way out, is that he’s running out of old bones that he’d previously buried to dig up for wedgie time, only to bury them again like a cache of 12 guage ammo.
    He’s a great tactical politician, you have to give him that; but a lousy PM for a 21cent country that wants to go places.

    • He has pretty much done everything that he both wants and can do. He cannot do anything about Senate reform – although, like the gun registry, he was able to leverage it to raise money, so he got something out of it anyway.

      But now he has nothing left to accomplish except defeat a Trudeau, thereby causing the eternal demise of the Liberal Party of Canada.

      • It might well come down to a head to head clash of the two great streams of political orthodoxy in the country – liberalism and Conservatism. It’s eerie how much this stuff resonates right back to our genesis. The Liberals had the ball so long they thought they owned it; Harper has at least succeeded it changing that narrative. But win or lose i dont see the LPC dying – JT has changed that narrative also. Liberals, love em or hate em, they’re in our DNA. The media really went overboard with the death of the party stuff.( had me there too Peter)
        I think JT can survive a loss to Harper as long as it isn’t a rout. Harper otoh is done I think even if he ekes out a squeaker due to juniors inexperience.

        • I have been saying this for a while now, but I do not believe Trudeau wants to win the next election. His government would have too many rookie MP’s, who would be better off with a few years of experience before forming government. His goal should be Leader of the Opposition – hopefully, but not necessarily, with a minority government.

  4. I think Harper got exactly what he wants. It’s now up to the premiers. And he can tell folks that every day until the 2015 election. If any 7 of them want to step up then we’ll have a reformed Senate.
    BTW I’m still chuckling over Norm Spectors tweet about the 3500 plus media report of a non-existant story. And the fact that two so-called journalists won awards from their peers for covering it. Quite a comment on the state of journalism in Canada today.

    • I haven’t had time to get to that. I am still laughing at how many conservative supporters are actually trying to spin this loss at the SCC as a win for Harper.

      That’s a knee slapper…

      • Have you read Coyne’s latest on this? He makes your point precisely…and it’s very funny. Basically describes the Harper govt as a car chasing dog that has no idea why it’s doing it.

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