Suddenly the Prime Minister believes he needs the opposition’s permission?

Has he forgotten about the option of time allocation?

On the anniversary of the government’s Senate reform legislation last being debated in the House, an exchange this afternoon between Thomas Mulcair and the Prime Minister. (emphasis mine)

Thomas Mulcair: Sixteen Conservative senators are still refusing to provide evidence that they actually live in the provinces they are supposed to represent. Fifteen of those were appointed by the Prime Minister. In their eighth year of broken promises, this is the Conservative record on Senate reform. Will the Prime Minister demand that his senators, members of his caucus, come clean with Canadians or is he going to keep covering up for them?

Stephen Harper: Mr. Speaker, all senators conform to the residency requirements. That is the basis on which they are appointed to the Senate and those requirements have been clear for 150 years. We recognize there have to be reforms to the Senate, including limiting senators’ mandates and encouraging an elected Senate. Unfortunately, it is the NDP that consistently opposes reforming the Senate and opposes an elected Senate, hoping in the future to appoint its own senators. I would encourage the NDP to join with us and allow the bill to pass so that we can have an elected Senate.

Why, in this case, does the Prime Minister believe it is necessary for the opposition to “allow” the bill to pass? The Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons. They could use that majority to pass a motion of time allocation to bring C-7 to a vote and they could use that majority to pass the bill at second reading. They have already used time allocation to end debate in the House on 28 occasions in this Parliament.

Government House leader Peter Van Loan might be reluctant to do so, but he also seems to believe in the necessity of time allocation if it is about fulfilling a commitment the government has made.

Mr. Speaker, nobody would be more delighted than I if we could actually not have to use time allocation, but so far we have not seen an indication from the opposition parties that they are prepared to deal with bills on an expeditious basis. We feel the need to actually get things done here and deliver on our commitments.

In fact, in each of these cases since we started in September, each one of those bills continues to be debated in the process in the House of Commons. At committee, they have not even returned here for report stage yet, let alone third reading. Extensive debate is taking place.

The fact is that the parliamentary process is a lengthy one with many stages. We want to ensure that bills have an opportunity to get through those stages so they can become law, so we can keep the commitments that we made to Canadians.

As Mr. Van Loan said yesterday, Canadians have “elected a government committed to delivering Senate reform.” Surely then this moment cries out for time allocation.




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Suddenly the Prime Minister believes he needs the opposition’s permission?

  1. The NDP doesn’t oppose senate reform. Far from it. They propose the simplest and most sensible reform there is: abolishing the useless institution. It has never acted as a chamber of “second sober thought” because it’s been corrupted with partisan appointments since Confederation. It’s time to put an end to the gravy train. Let the hacks and bagmen freeloading off of taxpayers get real jobs. The senate is 100% government waste.

    • Abolition and reform are two different things,. Abolition means it would no longer exist.. It means we would be a unicameral federal state. Reform means the Senate would be transformed, changed, improved.You claim there should not be a second chamber not because it’s a bad thing to have one but becausee of corruption in the HoC. You are willing to keep the corruption (remember, there are thousands of appointments a year made by politicians elected in the HoC)
      .
      By supporting abolition the NDP opposes reform. You cannot reform something that doesn’t exist.

      • You claim there should not be a second chamber not because it’s a bad thing to have one but because of corruption in the HoC.

        He never said anything about corruption in the House of Commons.

        • I was referring to : ‘It’s been corrupted with partisan appointments since Confederation”

          The appointments have always been made on the recommendation of persons who have held seats in the HoC. If the appointments have corrupted the Senate, his claim, then those who recommended the appointments are the source of the corruption of the Senate, no? If his claim is valid, that partisan appointments have corrupted the Senate, you’ll have to find solid arguments to convince me that abolition of the Senate would stop the flow of corrupting partisan appointments. Only a brake on the power to appoint would help contain that corrupting influence.

          2013/2/28 Disqus

          • Senators are appointed by the Prime Minister. Yes, the Prime Minister usually (though, importantly, not always) is a member of the House of Commons, but the appointment of Senators really has nothing to do with the House of Commons.

            As for your contention that “If his claim is valid, that partisan appointments have corrupted the Senate, you’ll have to find solid arguments to convince me that abolition of the Senate would stop the flow of corrupting partisan appointments”, I had to read that three times to figure out what I think you must mean. I presume that you’re referring to stopping the flow of OTHER supposedly corrupt appointments, as you surely must understand that it’s axiomatic that if there is no Senate, then there can’t be any corrupt appointments to the Senate, because there’d be no Senate to appoint corrupt people to. As to the possibility that there’s corruption in the appointment of people to OTHER bodies, no, abolishing the Senate wouldn’t fix that. However, neither would reforming the Senate.

            Now, completely separately, should we be trying to improve the appointment process for other positions appointed by the Prime Minister? Sure, why not? However, those other appointees aren’t partially responsible for establishing the laws that we all live under. Let’s focus on getting rid of partisan corruption in the legislature first, shall we?

          • The appointment of Senators should have something to do with the HoC! The pm is an appointee himself after all, and only because he has the confidence of the HoC – without that he’s a backbencher. Therefore I believe there is a link between the power to recommend appointments held by the pm and the HoC. And it’s that link we should have a good look into, for all appointments . Free votes on recommended candidates would certainly put a noose around the neck of a pm.

            What is lacking in the case of the Senate is input from the provinces in the selection of candidates. Unlike those who favour abolition, I just cannot imagine a federation the size and diversity of Canada with unicameral federal institutions, because of the division of powers that constitute the federation. The voice of the provinces should have at the very least the opportunity of being heard on legislation which they will have to administer.

            Don’t get me wrong – I think something needs to be done with the Senate, and I totally agree with you that we should first focus on getting rid of partisan corruption in the legislature, but unlike you I view our legislative institutions as comprising two houses, and both being essential in a federation.

            2013/2/28 Disqus

          • What is lacking in the case of the Senate is input from the provinces in the selection of candidates. Unlike those who favour abolition, I just cannot imagine a federation the size and diversity of Canada with unicameral federal institutions, because of the division of powers that constitute the federation. The voice of the provinces should have at the very least the opportunity of being heard on legislation which they will have to administer.

            Leaving aside the fact that there’s not a Senator in the Senate who actually, practically, represents the interests of his or her own province (they mostly either do what the PM tells them to, or oppose what the PM is doing, depending upon who appointed them) that’s the heart of the issue right there, and also why I think that abolition is the only practical way forward other than the status quo.

            The provinces, for the most part, are just never going to agree to giving more legitimacy to a legislative body essentially tasked with representing their interests at the federal level. The provinces see the representation of regional interests as THEIR responsibility, and they’re not interested in sharing. This is why I tend to fall on the side of abolition when it comes to Senate reform. Sure, in theory I like having a bicameral legislature and a chamber of “sober second thought” (a phrase, by the way, from a time when the upper chamber was meant to keep the dirty, common, democrats [in a pejorative sense] from doing anything crazy that the elites didn’t like) but I’d like a lot of things. We’re just never going to get a majority of provincial legislatures representing at least 50% of the population to get on board with reforming the Senate. It’s just never going to happen, imho. You MIGHT be able to get the abolition of the Senate past the provinces, as that would actually arguably give them more influence, so if we want to actually DO SOMETHING about the Senate, that’s the way to go. Everything else around Senate reform is just spinning our wheels as far as I’m concerned, and I rather think that the PMO knows that.

      • According to dictionary.com abolition is a type of reform:

        “to change to a better state, form, etc.; improve by alteration, substitution, abolition, etc.”

        I say the senate is useless. Plain and simple. It does the same job as Commons committees only less effectively. It’s an antiquated institution of aristocracy modeled after the UK House of Lords. It never served any real purpose.

  2. Demagogue:
    “One who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be
    idiots.”

    H. L. Mencken

    • That explains a lot…

  3. We don’t have a strong stable majority government. We have a strong, stable, majority opposition.

    I mean, I know it takes conservatives a long time to learn in general, but it’s been 6 yrs as government and over a year as a majority. Just how long does it take these yahoos to realize they’ve switched which side of the house they sit on?

    • The socialists are holding up senate reform despite the fact we have a majority,and the single thing everyone in the country knows the dippers stand for is abolishing the senate; this has just enough of a plausibility factor in it to satisfy the CPC’s demanding base, don’t you think!

    • Just how long does it take these yahoos to realize they’ve switched which side of the house they sit on?

      Oh, they certainly realize it. That’s why they’re dragging their feet on reforming the Senate, and complaining about who’s stupid idea it was to create the PBO.

  4. This is where the rubber meets the road. SAYING you want to reform the Senate is one thing, and it’s good for your party when you’re in opposition, and the other side has a majority of the Senators. Once you’re in government though, and you have a majority of the Senators, suddenly Senate reform is not so great for your party anymore.

    I rather expect this to go like the PBO. Great idea when we were on the other side of the House… horrible, no good, very bad idea once we’re in government. I expect lots of complaining about how the opposition is blocking Senate reform, and virtually NOTHING to actually be done about it.

    I know I’ve said this many times before (because there have been so many cases for which it’s apropos) but this sort of thing always reminds me of the Tory’s election slogan “Demand Better”. Funny how all we seem to hear these days is “Why is everyone always holding us to a higher standard than our predecessors”. Well, I hate to tell you Tories, but it’s because you didn’t run an entire election campaign using the slogan “Insist on the same!”.

  5. Forget about reforming the Senate.

    Abolishing the Senate is a much superior solution.

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