Pierre Poilievre will not be swayed by the elites

In lieu of actual Senate reform, a dismissal of Justin Trudeau’s idea

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It fell to Stephane Dion to stand and earnestly suggest that perhaps the Conservatives might imitate Justin Trudeau’s approach to Senate reform. There were chuckles from the Conservative benches.

“Mr. Speaker, now that the Prime Minister understands that he can not unilaterally change the character of the Senate,  will he leave the Senate to play its constitutional role as the Supreme once again recognized to be a chamber of sober second thought?” the former Liberal leader wondered, apparently hopelessly. “Will he follow the Liberal leader and sever ties between senators and the Conservative caucus, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister himself, so that Canadians have a less partisan and more independent Senate?”

That the Conservatives might find this funny is perhaps not surprising. But that the Conservatives have now officially accomplished nothing on Senate reform after eight years in office would seem to leave them little ground to laugh at anyone else.

That phrase “sober second thought” was used some 14 times in the Court’s 59-page decision, a phrase attributed to no less than John A. Macdonald, taken from the parliamentary debates on “Confederation of the British North American Provinces” on February 6, 1865. And it is Madonald who the Court quotes as saying that “there is . . . a greater danger of an irreconcilable difference of opinion between the two branches of the legislature, if the upper be elective, than if it holds its commission from the Crown” and that an appointed upper house would be responsible for “calmly considering the legislation initiated by the popular branch, and preventing any hasty or ill considered legislation which may come from that body, but it will never set itself in opposition against the deliberate and understood wishes of the people.” (In full, Macdonald described the Senate then as “an independent House, having a free action of its own.”)

That the Harper government, if it is unwilling to even attempt the sort of effort that is now known to be necessary to entirely reimagine the upper chamber, might decide, as a second option, to embrace their dearly celebrated forefather’s ideal would demonstrate a certain nobility. As Justin Trudeau has offered of the Liberal side, Conservative senators could be separated from the party’s official parliamentary caucus and a non-partisan appointment process could be explored. Pierre Poilievre could even dress up in period costume to make the announcement.

That would be something. Which is to say it might be better than nothing.

Conversely, the Conservatives could continue to ridicule the Liberal leader while attempting to find cover in a new slogan.

“Mr. Speaker  the problem with the proposal by the Liberal leader is that he wants not only that senators are not elected, but those who appoint the senators are not elected,” Mr. Poilievre attempted to explain in response to Mr. Dion. “He wants a committee of people who are not chosen by Canadians. It takes two steps outside of democracy instead of simply one. So we will work to minimize the costs associated with the Senate, at the same time maximizing accountability and responsibility.”

We might debate here how Mr. Trudeau’s theoretical appointment process for the Senate differs from the committee Mr. Harper created to consider vice-regal appointments or the process that exists for the appointment of federal judges. But there is something to be said for direct lines of accountability. It is useful, for instance, to know that the only person responsible for appointing Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin, among various failed candidates, is Stephen Harper.

All the same, we are left, for now, with the possibility that only Mr. Trudeau has a proposal that offers anything like an immediate chance to change to the way the Senate does it business, a proposal that could be said to be in line with John A’s original intent (and the idealized Senate of original intent), or at least a change that might limit the chances that future Senate reports will be written by the Prime Minister’s Office.

After Mr. Poilievre had dismissed Mr. Dion, Liberal MP Judy Foote was up to report that Conservative Senator Hugh Segal had also mused of reforming the appointment process for the upper chamber. “Will the government embrace this non-partisan consultative approach when filling the current vacancies, or will it be business as usual?” she wondered.

Mr. Poilievre again mocked. “Mr. Speaker, the first part of the Liberal proposal is to change Liberal senators into Senate Liberals,” he chided, drawing guffaws from his teammates. “The second proposal that the leader has come up with is to put in place a group of non-elected elites to choose who should represent Canadians in the Senate … That is the triple E Senate: for the elites, by the elites, of the elites.”

A few Conservatives stood to applaud this quip.

You’ll understand that Mr. Poilievre’s aversion to elite opinion is at least fairly consistent: up to and including not bothering to meaningfully consult with the chief electoral officer, the commissioner of elections or various other experienced observers before drafting a bill to comprehensively reform election laws.

In the next moment, Liberal MP Frank Valeriote was up yelling and pointing and shouting out the names of various Conservative senators as he attempted to convey the depths of his indignation for it all. The Speaker was compelled to intervene as the House descended into noise and then finally Mr. Valeriote was able to cry out, “Cut them loose Prime Minister and make them independent!”

Mr. Poilievre stood with a slight smirk on his face to report that he’d been at the last Liberal convention and had seen various senators in attendance. ”Everywhere I turned was another Senate Liberal and they had undergone a major change. Of course, a week earlier they had been called ‘Liberal senators’ but they flipped it on its head and they became ‘Senate Liberals.’ They were raising money and helping out with the Liberal convention.”

Say this much for the Conservatives: when they appoint a party fundraiser to the Senate, they are at least quite unabashed about that fundraiser’s presence at their convention.




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Pierre Poilievre will not be swayed by the elites

  1. The true problem is, and the cons will never admit it, but, JT really has them in a box. Harper may promise that he will not appoint senators to the red chamber right now, but if he dosnt make changes in the red chamber between this and 2015 election, JT can say Harper is waiting untill after the election to stack the red chamber with more party hacks and bagmen who have been out politicking in the 2015 election on behalf of the con party. Personally if ex grit senators want to go to functions and fund raisers, they are entitled to do so as supporting members of the liberal party, that’s a personal choice. They are no longer a part of the liberal caucus. Why cant the grit senators be grit supporters without being involved with the party caucus, I mean I can still be friends with my ex, but it doesn’t mean i have to be sleeping with him or her.

  2. It is funny that a man who has done nothing with his life except go to university and work on Parliament hill, would warn us against elites.

  3. What Trudeau is saying to the liberal senators is, you can still be my friend but you cant sleep with me anymore. So the message Trudeau is saying to Harper, is, if you sleep with dogs, you may end up getting fleas.

  4. I’ve watched PP ply his trade in the HoC for several years now, and quite frankly I find him to be a bald faced liar of the most contemptible sort.
    The fact that Harper made him point man on this file tells you all you need to know about the “fair” Elections Act.
    Though I can’t really afford it, I’ll be sending another $25 to an opposition party

  5. What’s wrong with being ‘elite’? I means ‘the best.’

    Why is Poilievre so afraid of elites??

    Then again he always looks like he should be in denim overalls with a red checkered shirt and a straw hat with a bible in his hand….so maybe he doesn’t know that. He’s certainly never learned any social skills. Or public speaking ones.

  6. Poor Wherry – forced to defend the likes of Liberal Bagmen and Elites like Trudeau, born with a silver spoon in their mouths. No wonder he looks so sheepish most of the time. He is actually one.

    • Down with the elites and their lack of random capitalization!

  7. Of course the media are screaming that Harper lost at the Supreme Court. In fact he has lost nothing. Yes he did not get the answer that I presume he wanted but maybe he did. Who lost was angry Tom Mulcair who has been screaming for abolition of the Senate. Good luck in getting the cast of thousands to agree on abolishing the Senate. As well the boy wonder with the great hair lost. The Supremes clearly stated having Senators appointed by an independent body is a no go as well. So Harper will now fill the Senate vacancies and the status quo will continue.

    • Actually – he did lose. He has said for years that he could do this unilaterally. The Liberals have been replying for years that he cannot. He was wrong and the Liberals were right. The only problem is that Harper spent millions of tax dollars to be proven wrong, when listening to the Liberals was free!

      But it is a sign of how truly pathetic the conservatives are becoming that they are actually trying to spin this into a win. So funny…

    • How exactly did Trudeau lose? The independent body could present a short list from which the PM would make the appointment. Just as is done now with judges. The point is, there would be an independent body that comes up with a short list. Someone wouldn’t get to be a Senator for breaking the law on the PM’s behalf, or for tanking the PM’s opponent with an unethical interview or doing some other clearly partisan thing for which the PM feels a Senate appointment is a just reward; he or she would have to have demonstrable skills that could contribute to the “sober, second thought” that is supposed to be the Senate’s job.

      • Ahh, see you are judging the outcome using real world conclusions. In Harperland, things are not always what they seem. In this case, Harper won because the courts plainly said that he was right and that everyone should just shut up and worry about the economy. He got exactly what he wanted, because didn’t I tell you to shut up and worry about the economy? Justin Trudeau was the big loser because he was not worried about the economy. Tom Mulcair was an even bigger loser because he has a beard. So in conclusion, Stephen Harper has once again shown how shrewd and brilliant a politician he is by being concerned about the economy… so worried that he won’t really talk about that either, so just shut up and remember that on election day, your polling station has been moved.

  8. Oh please! Whenever Cons run out of arguments, they trot out the tired old ‘elite’ cliché. Harper did earlier this year during the Con convention, remember
    Give us a break: YOU ARE ALL PART OF THIS elite. Only your knuckled-dragging, blind followers fall for your ‘elite’ schpeel.
    Even Rob Ford, for all his lack of class, is part of the ‘elite’ (born into a rich family).

    • Is THAT what they mean by ‘elite’ ??

      So this is some kind of ‘make the rich pay’ thing? Like the NDP?

      Weird….but thank you for the explanation.

  9. Poilievre reminds me of the creepy kid down the street that mothers warn their kids to stay away from.

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