'A better democracy' - Macleans.ca

‘A better democracy’


Conservative election platform, 2006Canada is a democracy, yet our democratic system has not kept pace with the needs of a changing society. Paul Martin used to talk about a democratic deficit, but his actions as Prime Minister have deepened it. A new Conservative government will be committed to significant democratic reform of our Parliamentary and electoral institutions.

Canwest News Service, tonightPrime Minister Stephen Harper is preparing to reward some of his longest-serving and most loyal political operatives with Senate appointments that could come as early as this week, Canwest News Service has learned. Doug Finley, who has been the political master strategist for the Conservative party in its first four general elections, will lead a pack of eight Senate appointees that includes Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, who was Harper’s second-longest serving aide before her retirement this summer, and Don Plett, who will have to resign as president of the Conservative Party of Canada if he accepts the $132,000-a-year job as senator.


‘A better democracy’

  1. Takes a lot to cause me to choke on my Guinness – but that gem did it!
    Thank you Aaron – NOT!

    • Aren't you just attacking the messenger? Seems to me that Harper has completely abandoned his rhetoric about open and accountable government (although, to be fair, he did that more or less on day one of his government).

  2. I don't disagree with these appointments in a vacuum — but even ultra-partisan conservatives must be blushing at the hypocrisy of this one at least a little…..

    • If it's not feasible to abolish or significantly reform the Senate, standing on principle and refusing to appoint in the same way Liberals do is just self-destructive. The next Liberal PM surely won't have any compunction about doing the same, and moral victories aren't that satisfying when out of power.

      • First, if the twice elected Prime Minister Harper actually made an attempt at senate reform and failed (nobody could ever lose an election over senate reform!) it would increase the strength of your argument. I cannot recall him bothering, but please correct me if I'm wrong. Second, I believe that many Canadians – or at least me – are bloody tired of the argument that principles can be sacrificed if"everybody else is doing it." I don't care if it's a Liberal, a Conservative or anyone else.

        • i beleive, SH said something about doing stuff differently, no?

        • here, here. i believe, SH said something about doing stuff differently, no?

          • You mean "different" as in "making a complete mockery of our Parliamentary institutions?

            Yeah…no disagreement there!

          • we should ennumerate the full list of our democratic and governing institutions he has treaded on.

            i will start: canadian citizenship.

          • ~ passing Sean a copy of the Ottawa phone book ~

          • i was actually lazy in my comment Toby, while I agree the lsiti slong, I would love to see a list of those institutions that commentators think have been most significantly damaged or resonate the most with them, and how they have been damaged.

  3. I'm glad he's planning on appointing senator's. Could he not find anyone without such an obvious bias?

    (I know, I know, all the cool Prime Minister's do it. Might I suggest that precedent is not a good enough reason.)

  4. While it is kind of funny, appointing Senators IS the responsibility of PM (through the GG of course), and it was ridiculous what he let happen from 2006-2008. I'll be interested too see who the others are. Olsen, Plett and Finley don't exactly make me optimistic. Three of the architects of the current Conservative Party and their hyper-partisanship. Too bad, as the Senate was once (despite the jokes about it) truly a Chamber of sober second thought.

  5. Maybe there's a glimmer of hope in all this…
    Maybe Harper – like all good politicians who know when to leave the stage – is rewarding all his friends before he throws in the towel…

    • 'Sir, you had a choice!'

      • Not quite accurate. Sorry.

        With Mulroney and Harper apparently trying to kiss and make up, and with the upcoming 25th anniversary celebration of Mulroney's historic election victory, it is most appropriate to quote the former Prime Minister accurately and in full:

        "You had an option, sir. You could have said, 'I'm not going to do it. This is wrong for Canada.'"

        For the amazing video.

  6. What else did you find in that wastebacket, Aaron?

    The promise not to tax income trusts? The promise to hold elections only on fixed dates? The promise to make every vote in Parliament a "free vote" except budgets? Remember that one!? The promise to cut the gas tax? The promise to bring in carbon regulations under a "made in Canada" plan? The promise for wait times guarantees – and that was one of The Five Priorities (TM)? The promise to appoint a budget chief that answers "directly to Parliament"? The promise to create an appointments commissioner? The promise that "all officers of Parliament are appointed through consultation with all parties in the House of Commons and confirmed through a secret ballot of all MPs, not just named by the Prime Minister"?

  7. […CONT]

    The promise to promise to prevent party leaders from appointing candidates without the democratic consent of local electoral districts? The promise to be accountable and transparent? The promise to introduce a Constitutional amendment protecting property rights? The promise to allow income splitting on capital gains? The promise to create 125,000 new child care spaces? The promise to ensure regional development agencies are "depoliticized and fully accountable to Parliament"? The promise to implement the Invformation Commissioner's reform recommendations? The promise to provide a general public interest override for all information request exemptions? The promise to "all government public opinon research is automatically published within 6 months of completion"?

    I could go on (and on and on and on and on and on….) but my fingers are getting tired and the list is just too long.

  8. Finley…*yuck* Look for more screeching in the Senate committees.

      • That's a great verb, but it's ambiguous:

        tr.v. burred, burr·ing, burrs
        1. To form a burr on.
        2. To remove burrs from.

        • Apparently PMSH is going to treat us to #1, but I remain hopeful for #2.

    • They had better bolt down those chairs, lest Finley's start to fly.

  9. Do like they do with national defense. Put them all on one.

  10. Apropos of nothing at all, Stephen Harper in his own words on Senate appointments:

    “I don't plan to appoint senators; that's not my intention.”

    “Stephen Harper will cease patronage appointments to the Senate. Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the Upper House.”

    “Despite the fine work of many individual Senators, the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the Prime Minister.”

    “I challenge Mr. Martin, once he becomes Prime Minister, to turn a page on the past, and appoint only elected Senators to the Upper House.”

    “Canadians from Newfoundland and Labrador to British Columbia remain ashamed of Canada`s senior legislative body. They are ashamed the Prime Minister continues the disgraceful, undemocratic appointment of undemocratic Liberals to the undemocratic Senate to pass all too often undemocratic legislation.”

    “We don't support any Senate appointments.”

    • The Prime Minister's position was wrong at the time. Simple as that. Appointing Senators is an important part of Parliamentary democracy. Your quotes make me laugh, don't get me wrong, but I have no issue with the PM going back on his word on this at all.

      • Part of the point is the humour and joke of this PM. Part of the point is that you just never know when Harper means it or when he is just saying stuff.

        • You're describing almost all Party leaders in history.

          • On promises as fundamental to his leadership campaign, his conservative movement, his Reform Party/Canadian Alliance/Conservative Party roots and base, his own ideological underpinings? I'm sure there are some examples out there, just not sure where.

          • Certainly promises seem to get broken throughout the history of our fair dominion. But it does seem like the current guy seems to break his word with notable speed and frequency.

          • Ah, the Liberals never promised to be holier-than-thou on this issue – Harper did.

      • Agreed. The PM's petulant refusal to name senators during his first two years and a half years in power did more damage to the institution than the most audaciously partisan pick could ever have accomplished., and, as an unabashed fan of the Senate, I'm just glad he's finally living up to one of the two constitutional requirements a prime minister actually has.

        • even though it pains me (somewhat), I have to agree with you Kady.

        • The PM's petulant refusal to name senators during his first two years and a half years in power

          You are forgetting his glorious first day in office. Michel Fortier anyone? Has it been so long since he broke that promise?

          • Okay, other than him. Really, though, he came very close to destroying the place through deliberate, malevolent neglect.

          • Didn't Wells once point out that is his policy toward government itself?

          • So I suppose why not go the opposite extreme with utterly unqualified patronage appointments and destroy it that way…that works too!

          • While annoying, the Senate is kind of different. People who go in there and shoot their mouth off generally get put in their place pretty quickly.

          • Yeah, we haven't heard from Mike Bluffy lately.

          • Duffy gets more attention paid to him by here than he gets from the rest of the Senate combined.

          • Except when the yahoos start becoming a larger and unfortunately a louder (literally I mean) voice, say, like the HoC.

          • Really, though, he came very close to destroying the place through deliberate, malevolent neglect.

            Oh come on. What utter nonsense. How could failing to fill a few vacancies "destroy the senate"? Given his clear distaste for the current Senate, if he was that close to destroying the place, why wouldn't he have continued with his previous course of action if he was just on the brink of success? Your rhetoric is getting the better of you.

            I dislike the patronage appointments as much as anyone, but it's hogwash to suggest that leaving a few vacant seats threatened to destroy the institution.

          • Almost 20% of the seats were vacant.

          • Almost 20% of the seats were vacant in December.

  11. Anyone got any more?

  12. Perhaps by "significant democratic reform of our Parliamentary and electoral institutions" , Harper was referring to getting more Conservatives into our Parliamentary and electoral institutions.

  13. When talking about "significant democratic reform of our Parliamentary and electoral institutions", perhaps Harper was referring to getting more Conservatives into our Parliamentary and electoral institutions.

  14. Harper is ffing hypocrite

  15. No other names leaked? I wonder if they're partying in Mabou? Someone call a random house. If no one answers they're all at the Red Show with Rodney.

  16. OK, OK despite Harper's stupid & solemn pledges, we grudgingly admit that appointing Senators is his duty and all that ….

    still, in yet another summer of discontent, the schadenfreude is delicious

  17. Considering that the senate itself is acting as a roadblock to senate reform, it may be necessary to stack the senate.

    • The roadblock to Senate reform is the constitution.

    • That reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's line: "In order to bring on the Revolution, it may be necessary to work within the Communist party."

    • Now all Harper needs do is hope is appointees are less hypocritical than he.

    • Now all Harper needs do is hope his appointees are less hypocritical and self-serving than he is, like Mike Duf.. err.. this might not work out like he hoped.

    • Now all Harper needs do is hope his appointees are less hypocritical and self-serving than he is, like Mike Duf.. err.. good luck with that.

    • Now all Harper needs do is hope his appointees are less hypocritical and self-seeking than he is, like Mike Duf.. err.. good luck with that.

    • Not quite. I seem to recall that both attempts at Senate reform, bills which involved term limits and elections, died on the order papers. Why? Despite assertions of a Liberal-stacked Senate, the bills died because the PM prorogued Parliament in one case and called an election in the other (or was it vice versa?). Anyhow, Senate reform was blocked by the dissolution of Parliament at the behest of the PM.

      Harper knows he can't reform the Senate without the participation of the Provinces (that pesky Constitution an all). He blew hard on Senate reform because it's what the CRAPpers want to hear. But the hard work and politicking required to actually transform the Senate was never very evident in the PM's actions.

  18. So Finley and Plett are the latest to flee Team Harper.

  19. ".. and Don Plett, who will have to resign as president of the Conservative Party of Canada .."

    Why? The President of the Party is an unpaid position. The Chair of the Conservative Fund, Gerstein (sp?), didn't resign when he went to the Senate.

    The Liberal Party's David Smith chairs their election campaigns.

    Why would anybody have to resign from unpaid volunteer positions?

    • You mean the Libs have been using Senator Smith and his Senate perks to chair their election campaigns—-so much creativity using public funds for Liberal duties——so little creativity in anything resembling policy ( 9 week work year ! ) or choosing a leader.

  20. Harper's phrase "it is not my intention…." should be a clue about his promise and intentions and should be a worry folks, He uses that phrase a lot.

    Death Penalty – whenever asked in the HofC – the phrase "it is not our intention" always comes up.

    Start paying attention folks.

    • You forgot some of your scare tactics——you should have thrown in some abortion banning reference—-maybe mandatory Bible readings—–oh, and take away all women`s rights—–and Harper won`t go fight the fires in Greece—-and of course there will be soldiers in our streets ( I`m not lying ).

      Scare tactics are so nineties—-how about some new policies boys.

      • LOL – scare tactics? It's called fact tactics – something the cons don't believe in. Just look at the right wing here and in the US and in the last "decade" it has been nothing but scare, demean and misinform.

        LOL – I can't believe what you just said.

    • Yes, there is a pattern to Harper's speech. I also watch out for "let me be perfectly clear", which usually proceeds a whopper like "I will not never run a deficit".

  21. I have just visited the Senate website and looked at the bios of the senators named by Paul Martin. Martin's nominations include a former federal conservative cabmin (Andrée Champagne) and uber-Conservative politico Hugh Segal. Also, Roméo Dallaire, people with Ph.D. like Lillian Dyck and Claudette Tardif and people with a wealth of community experience like Ruth Nancy (previously sat on the Board of Directors of the Economic Council of Canada, The Canadian Centre for Arms Control, The Canada-USA Fulbright Foundation and the International Institute of Concern for Public Health) and the politicos like Dennis Dawson, Francis Fox and Art Eggleton.

    I am older than most here and I was taught in school that history will judge a prime minister by the quality of his appointments. Harper is a shameful man. His nominations to the Senate, like his other decisions, are never made in the interest of Canada, its institutions and its people. Harper will be remembered strictly a self-serving bumbling fool.

    • Or to put it a little more statistically:

      – Prime Minister Martin appointed a total of 17 senators: 13 Liberals, 4 Conservatives (including 1 PC but also including Norm Segal) and 1 NDP in 2 years.

      – In 3.5 years, Harper has appointed 20 and is about to appoint 8 more, 100% Conservative including what appears to be at least three former Harper staffers. At least when he broke his elected senators promise before he appointed Conservative loyalists and not Harper cronies.

      • That's why I never trust statistics. They give a very narrow view. You state that Martin appointed 13 Liberals – this is not true. These thirteen sit as Liberals but don't necessarily vote on party lines. Of these thirteen, there are some known-liberals, and Canadians known for their achievements in their community or their field of expertise. Harper on the other hand is strictly appointing political hacks. Senators appointed by Harper have publicly stated that they are committed to follow Harper's leadership – they don't go there to use their good judgment in the interest of Canada, they are there, by their own admission, to serve Harper.

        • Either way, I hope the Liberals go on the attack over this. This past summer has been ridiculous for their silence (IE: they should ahve skewered Harper for his crass partisanship on foreign soil when he accused Iggy something he hadn't even said).
          This should give the Libs a few minutes to shoot some fish in the barrel.

  22. That loyalty has its price is more true in some circles than others.

  23. Dear Mr PM Steve: I have a few more names for you to consider for the Senate: (a) Conrad Black, (b) Bob Fife, and (c) myself. If there is only one space left, please let it be (c).

  24. Way to go Harper – so how many until we get a majority in the senate? because that is the only way we will ever get a chance to change the place unless the Premiers cooperate and hold elections so Stevie boy can appoint them! sad but true!

    • Will Jacques Demers still be a regular on TV?

  25. When Doug Finley got involved in politics in his home country, it was with the goal of breaking that country apart, literally. He was no different there than a Bloc Québecois operative here…

    Now that he will be given an official position in Our governement, how can we expect any less from him? As a Conservative operative, he has been a constant source of divisiveness for Canada, he has insulted many Canadians (in the political field and beyond), he has disrupted Parliamentary proceeedings and other various Government institutions as if he were a achild (and wrote a book on perfecting such class)…

    Given his true history (Finley's) and a penchant for separatism, how can Harper tell Canadians this pick is best for Canada?