When will Stephen Harper appoint another senator?

It’s been awhile and there are more vacancies to come

by Aaron Wherry

Pawel Dwulit/Toronto Star/Getty Images

At last report, the Prime Minister said he had “no immediate plans” to appoint another senator and when I asked last week about the Prime Minister’s current plans I was referred to those comments of his in August.

The Prime Minister’s last round of appointees was announced on January 25 (the appointment of Scott Tannas was announced on March 25, but Mr. Tannas had the benefit of having been elected in Alberta). Less than a week later, the Harper government announced that it was referring Senate reform to the Supreme Court.

Of course, the last 12 months have perhaps made it more difficult to be seen appointing someone to the upper chamber. And at least until the Supreme Court rules on the Senate reference, Mr. Harper can imagine that getting to an elected Senate is as easy as passing legislation through Parliament and waiting for the provinces to comply.

But there is some interesting math involved here.

With the departures of Gerald Comeau and David Braley, there are currently nine vacancies in the Senate and Hugh Segal is now due to retire next June. Another five senators will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2014: three Conservatives and two Liberals.

Even with the vacancies and even with the departures from caucus of Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin, the Conservatives still enjoy a 57-32 advantage in the Senate. If Mr. Harper filled all of the above vacancies with Conservatives, Mr. Harper could give the Conservatives a 68-30 advantage by the end of 2014.

Senator Segal’s impending departure also marks the slow decline of senators who were not appointed by Stephen Harper. Of the six known departures for 2014, including Mr. Segal, two were appointed by Paul Martin, two were appointed by Jean Chretien and one by Brian Mulroney. Of the current senators, three were appointed by Pierre Trudeau, seven by Mr. Mulroney, 22 by Mr. Chretien and 13 by Mr. Martin. The remaining 51 were appointed by Mr. Harper.

(Mr. Harper has so far made 59 appointments, good for sixth in the all-time standings, but three of those appointees were elected, so he could still be said to rank just below Mr. Mulroney’s 57 appointees. If Mr. Harper gets ambitious and fills all or most of the potential vacancies, he could get past Robert Borden for fifth all-time. He’d need some early retirements to get past Mr. Chretien for fourth.)

If Stephen Harper left the Conservatives with 68 members of the Senate, how long would a Conservative majority in the Senate remain in place? Obviously that depends on how quickly after 2015 a non-Conservative party or coalition formed government. But if there is a spring election in 2015 and the appointing of Conservative senators ceased shortly thereafter, it could be another four years before the Conservatives lost their Senate majority with the retirement of Raynell Andreychuk in August of 2019. That could, conceivably, reduce the Conservative count to 57. Jacques Demers’ retirement a week and a half later would reduce the count to 56.

On the other hand, if Mr. Harper declines to appoint another senator, the Conservatives could be down to 53 (or fewer, if anyone retires early) by the spring of 2015.

When will Stephen Harper appoint another senator?

  1. Given his success rate it should be the 12th of never.

  2. I’ll do it.

    I think the salary is more than enough to struggle by on without any need to swindle more by cooking the books. So I’m more honest than some.

    I also promise to vote as my conscience tells me and not as I’m told to do by any party apparatchik. So I’m a more reflective avenue of sober second thought than most

    I will also talk to people where I live and get their feedback too and use that to form my opinions. So I’m more representative than many.

    Oh no I just put myself out of the running, didn’t I?

    • I promise not to campaign for a political party while on the Senate’s tab. I also promise to live in the constituency I am appointed to represent. And, I’m pleased to report that I believe that after subtracting what I owe, I actually do have assets worth more than $4000. (One percenters here I come!)

      Oh, and I’d even be willing to step down after 8 years, although everyone knows that was just made up on the back of a napkin.

      • You probably just joined me on the “not a snowflakes chance in hell” list.

      • I’ll be sober, and awake. And not listen to Ray Novak.

        • That’s too drastic, I’m not willing to go that far.

      • Too late, Lizzie in wonderland May already volunteered for that when Larry, Curly and Moe did their aren’t we great statesmen coalition thing. You’ll just have to get to the back of the line.

  3. ” … the Conservatives still enjoy a 57-32 advantage in the Senate.”

    Or another way to put it would be that the Conservative and Liberal caucuses together enjoy an 89-0 advantage over the NDP, Greens and all other parties.

    • Actually, I think there’s 1 independent, unless that senator retired.

  4. Sadly, the stature of the institution and its incumbents has been so thoroughly degraded by the antics of the Cons that the most worthy appointees would consider it an insult to be nominated. Only grifters and carpetbaggers would be flattered by the invitation. Who else would want their integrity tainted by membership in such a corrupt, morally bankrupt assembly?

    • It is amazing, isn’t it? Conservative Senators are the only ones who do anything bad, and are entirely responsible for everything that is wrong with the Senate.

      • Nope…I didn’t say that. While the Liberals have their own little coterie of senate transgressors, I was referring to the PMO’s (i.e., Harper’s) attempts to reduce the Con senate caucus to a branch office of its own command-and-control operations, to pay an inducement to a sitting parliamentarian, to cover up that act, to summarily expel three of its own members without due process, and to influence an “independent” audit.

        IOW, as bad as the Liberals have been, the Cons have managed to take the institution to even slimier depths.

        • Of course the Conservatives are worse. This is Wherry’s comment board, after all.

          • Sorry, my friend, Wherry has nothing to do with it. The facts around Cons’ conduct with respect to the senate are fetid no matter who reports or comments on them.

        • History will call the Harper interregnum the “slug” era. Everywhere they went they left a trail of slime.

          • You’re being far too balanced and fair. I think your comments would be much more effective and persuasive if perhaps you could be a bit more partisan.

          • It’s Christmas, I’m bathed by the milk of human kindness.

          • . . . which reminds me of another scientifically proven fact about conservatives: they all hate Christmas.

          • Nah, they hate the giving, not the getting.

          • Yes, their Evil knows no bounds. True fact: if a conservative receives a cute little puppy for Christmas, that puppy is soon found strangled. I’m not making this up.

      • They say it only takes one bad apple to spoil the barrel. Stevie threw in a bushel.

      • The grits had their bad days in the senate, but they(grits)never had the senate smell this bad. This goes to the top, and it started in the PMO. Grits have a more intelligent group of senators. whether you like the senate or not, nobody’s come forward with a plan to dismantle the senate(I know everyone wants it gone), until that happens we are going to have to put up with this smell until someone takes reform seriously. For the dippers to want to get rid of it(senate),show Canadians how to get there, or shut up about dismantling it.

    • But I’ll be sober, and awake, AND I won’t listen to Ray Novak!! Really.

      • Beg pardon? Is this in reference to something I said??

    • WHERE ON EARTH WOULD YOU OR ANYBODY FIND “WORTHY APPOINTEES” The senate is already loaded with grifters and carpetbaggers.
      And what do you mean by “Integrity tainted”

      • WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME?

        The need for “worthy appointees” arises from the little problem that, until or unless it’s abolished, the Senate has an established role to play in the legislative process. Do we continue to entrust that role to likes of grifters and carpetbaggers or find some way to appoint people of merit and unimpeachable integrity? People who are non-partisan would be ideal but, practically speaking, probably far too much to hope for.

        Now, please use your inside voice in future comments.

  5. Harper should appoint Jean Brault, Chuck Guite, Alfonso Gagliano, and Yvan Cournoyer to the Senate.

    That last recommendation was just because I loved the way he played hockey, much more than I did Chretien appointee Frank Mahovlich.

    It would be SO much fun watching the media twist themselves into pretzels trying to condemn and approve simultaneously.

    • If he weren’t too old to be eligible, Don Cherry may soon be available and he’d make a perfect addition to the Kon Klown Show in the senate. We wouldn’t have televised senate proceedings but maybe we could have Rock-’em-Sock-’em video of their schtick.

    • Because if there’s one message we got from the media regarding Braut, Guite and Gagliano it was approval.
      Is it hard to fork food into your mouth when you have such a tenuous hold on reality?

  6. If the illegitimate Harper government had done the work to fix the senate in the first years after cheating to take over the government they could have made some substantial differences by now. They didn’t steal our government to do anything substantial though. Harper just couldn’t help himself from helping himself. He obviously knew his party had to cheat to win in elections (or they never would have). Getting to know him was not getting to like him so this was his only way to guarantee himself the power to trash the country he resents so much. According to anything he has “accomplished” trashing Canada is the only thing evident. Nothing good has come from keeping Harper in the PM office.

    Well maybe one thing. His less than stellar staff has exposed a lot of loopholes that draw a fine line next to unlawful, criminal and corrupt. Lets learn from that and plug them.

  7. Why would there be a spring 2015 election? It’s se for end of October.

    • Unless Harper decides otherwise. As he’s already demonstrated, that law is just for show. Arguments were made here about a week ago that a spring election following the announcement of a balanced budget would allow them to sally forth before the bloom is off the rose.

  8. Interesting dilemma for the master strategist. He can’t make the appointments immediately given the Senate scandal and the requested rulings from the Supreme Court.

    After the Senate scandal dies down and before the next election, he might want to fill the place up again. However in doing so he risks reinvigorating the issue and reminding the voters of his earlier appointments. If he doesn’t make the appointments, he risks Junior winning a minority government and restacking the Senate with Liberals in record time.

    • Or…he chooses the next batch of appointees from a pool of the distinguished and deserving (all privately swearing fealty to virtuous, right-leaning sentiments) and dares the media to rubbish them.

      • So Nigel Wright would be a lock, right?

        • Would that he were. Flagrantly foolish and unnecessary misstep on this matter by the PM, and one far more damaging to the Tories than is the idiot Senate bumf.

          • I suspect there are many successful, principled conservatives that share your assessment. It will be interesting to see if they send a message to Harper.

      • “Or…he chooses the next batch of appointees from a pool of the distinguished and deserving (all privately swearing fealty to virtuous, right-leaning sentiments) and dares the media to rubbish them.”

        As much as I like the idea (I’m one of the few people who actually likes the idea of an appointed but uneleced senate), the notion of him sending someone distinguished to an institution that he considers to be a sore that needs to be eliminated (or at best, used as an extension of the PMO) over valid seems incompatible.

        I don’t think ‘the base’ that conservative strategists keep harping on about would take too kindly to it either.

        • Agreed, although the base would find it hard to object unless the ‘star’ gained fame in the media. Duffy Wallin put paid to that.

          Still, if the long-game object is to torpedo the place, rendering it legitimate with quality stooges isn’t likely a Harper goal, as you say. If, however, Harper becomes convinced the hangover from the ‘scandal’ could hurt him in some key election constituencies, not being handicapped by scruples means he’ll do whatever is necessary to reverse things, even if that means stacking the chamber with blue shoats. (Can you believe there are three serving Senators first appointed by Trudeau? What a sweet ride they’ve had.)

    • That’s a good way of summarizing it. I like to think there’s another option: Considering the senate mess that refuses to go away in the news, decide to take the high road and appoint only independent senators. Now, he could be sneaky and appoint independents that have right-leaning ideologies without actually being affiliated to the CPC. Or he could go one step further and appoint a few senators approved by the House/opposition parties.
      This would provide a nice counter-balance to the negative news surrounding the senate, while still allowing him to appoint senators (albeit with a caveat: if they’re independents, they won’t necessarily tow the party line).

    • 10 to 1 he will stack the senate with cons. with a 68 to 30 majority the Cons. can rule forever and override future governments, the only fair way is by attrition ,let the rest of the Senators retire,walk out and never again stick the people with this poisonous trough of a money pit

  9. Maybe he could do a deal with Rob Ford. Resign from the mayor’s job. Turn over your voters database to the party and you’re in the Senate.

  10. The title of this piece is one of those setups that’s so wryly humorous it doesn’t even need a punchline. 10/10

  11. IF Harper ever realizes he has no hope of winning the next election, regardless of what anyone thinks, he’ll stack the senate for the next generation. He has no qualms or scruples.

  12. When?

    When hell freezes over, if there is any justice in this world.

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