How to disagree with the Conservatives

Claude Carignan’s motion to suspend three senators found a single Tory dissenter


Sen. Claude Carignan. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

“You don’t get to win every battle, and you know, our system, majorities count.  And there was a strong majority on the other side, and I accept that, and I just move on.” — Sen. Hugh Segal, following votes to suspend three senators

Claude Carignan sounded a lot like the Prime Minister after the Senate suspended three of its own without pay. He blamed the Liberals in the Senate for obstructing the votes. He insisted that Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau ought to be removed from the public payroll. When he emerged from the Senate chamber, mission accomplished, Carignan delivered a prepared statement.

“It’s a great honour to serve in the Parliament, and Canadians expect all parliamentarians to conduct themselves with integrity and to follow the rules,” he opened. If that stuff about honour and integrity sounds so familiar, it’s because you were probably watching Question Period earlier in the day. Stephen Harper’s very first answer talked about the same values.

“Mr. Speaker, it is, of course, an honour to serve in any chamber of the Parliament of Canada. When people are elected or named to the Senate, they should treat it as a great honour,” he said. “Obviously when we name people, we name people of high standing in Canadian society. We expect them to be able to follow the rules and conduct themselves in a way that shows integrity.”

None of that is surprising. Harper’s repeatedly asserted the Senate’s independence, but Conservatives are team players. The three senators claimed expenses improperly, after all. They deserved to be punished. Whether or not the Senate chamber offers the embattled senators due process was a question hotly debated, but for the most part, Tories fell in line behind Carignan’s motion. Several abstained. A single Conservative senator voted against.

Let’s not go and call Hugh Segal, the lone dissenter, some kind of maverick, or renegade, or rebel mastermind. He’s not. He’s a proud Tory. What’s remarkable is his ability to disagree so fundamentally with his caucus and, in the same breath, respect those differences.

“The Conservative Party is full of people with different views, and there wasn’t much of a difference tonight, but for all those in the Conservative Party across Canada who do believe in due process and the rule of law, do believe in fairness, I hope I tried to speak for them,” he said. That’s a stinging indictment of the majority view, but that’s where it ends. No rebellion. Next issue, please.

Carignan’s logic, responding to the several Tories who didn’t follow his lead, got a bit confusing. “It was a free vote on our side, and the other side it was very clear that the Liberals vote against the accountability,” he said, forgetting that his own senators had the very same concerns with the motion as the Liberals on “the other side.” That’s the messy world of party discipline at work.

As the Senate moves on to whatever is next, Segal has sent a message to his fellow senators: speak up.


What’s above the fold

The Globe and Mail Toronto Mayor Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack cocaine.
National Post  Ford refuses to step down.
Toronto Star  The mayor broke the news in a scrum, and later held a news conference.
Ottawa Citizen The Senate suspended three of its senators without pay.
CBC News PR experts aren’t sure Ford’s following a coherent game plan.
CTV News Ford may see the video of him purportedly smoking crack.
National Newswatch The suspended senators may remain on the public payroll.

What you might have missed

THE NATIONAL Land claims. B.C.’s Tsilhqot’in Nation has spent two decades fighting off logging companies’ attempts to set up shop on what they say is their land. In 2007, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that aboriginal title did exist on the land, but the province’s appeals court took a different view. Now, the Tsilhqot’in will argue their case in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.
THE GLOBAL Bangladesh. A court ruled that 152 border guards, convicted of slaughtering dozens of hostages as part of a protest that demanded higher wages, deserve the death penalty. Originally, over 800 guards were charged: 277 were acquitted and hundreds of others received life in prison or, in some cases, lighter sentences. The convictions were rare for peace time.
THE QUIRKY Air travel. A Sunwing airlines flight from Jamaica to Calgary made an unscheduled stop in Lincoln, Nebraska, after one of its passengers—a 48-year-old Calgary man—became “unruly.” Apparently, the man “refused to sit in his seat and disturbed other passengers.” On arrival in the American Midwest, he was taken to hospital. The plane spent hours on the tarmac.


How to disagree with the Conservatives

  1. Before they were elected govt we used to hear a lot about ‘conservative principles’. 7 years later….whether it’s the Infamous 3, Ford, the Senate itself or Harper…it turns out there are none.

    • Yep, and why I am so critical of Ottawa, been a worker paying huge taxes, now disabled and realize the ruse of Ottawa. Ottawa is about tax greed for bailouts, inflated buddy contracts, waste, corruption and keeping people taxed working poor.

      None of these stinking parties represent the productive middle class, to them we are just disposable tax sheep. They talk a lot and provide false perceptions, illusions, excuses but always will screw you.

      Yep, turns out none of the parties represent us. I am still a small c conservative but no party, not even the Conservative represent me or anyone I know. They are placatory parties managing us for our money. Only democracy is to choose which back room lobby groups get more of your money. Not one option for efficiency, economy and effective government. Just government greed using propaganda, deception and waste to keep productive people down.

      • Yes, but you are against any thing that might cost you a nickel. In fact you seem to have spent your life ranting about it, instead of doing something useful.

        Gosh….if it hadn’t been for those taxes…why you could have been a billionaire by now.

        Dave, if you can’t make it in Canada….you can’t make it anywhere.

  2. Up next: Kicking Segal out of the Senate.

    • Or better yet, abolish the utterly useless senate outright.

      • Nice sentiment, but getting rid of it isn’t something that can be done easily, if at all. Politicians screaming ‘Abolish’ are pandering.

        • But people love being pandered to!

          • And will pay to have it done to them. :-)

  3. i hate always using the movie analogy all the time, but im reminded of the movie ” The Ox-Bow Incident ” where Henry Fondas character is reading the letter of one of the 3 men hung for being accused of cattle rustling and where they show his eyes cover by the other actor Harry Morgans hat. its quite a poignant scene, blind justice. Art imitating life.

    • There is a movie called “Idiocracy”, it was billed as a comedy but has a certain ironic truth to it.

  4. To Sen. Hugh Segal, sorry, majorities do not count or you would have fired the corrupt senators including the Liberal offshore tax evasion one.

    There is a reason why we don’t have referndums, reform, recalls etc. as the whole system is based on deceit. We the people have the illusion we mater but the back room and lobbyists really run the show.

    Back in Magna Carta days royalty and elite had to appease the slaves, give them a voice but did not want to give the ultimate poper to the people so they created the feudalistic parliament system.

    None of the parties represent the mainstream productive middle class, we are just tax sheep. Always talk, good talk, talk a lot but no real tangible results other than more taxes, more governemtn and talk that never materializes to anything meanful.

    THe idea is to falsely justify the need for statism government bloat then feed the money to the back room favorites of each party. Sometimes they even work together like the Mulroney Airbus scandal. Cons started it, Liberals with NDP union support bought the planes anyways…and we the taxpayers get stuck with paying for it.

    Its all about taxing you poor for bailouts, inflated contracts for buddy deals, waste, corruption and useless branches of governemtn like the senate as they play a very expensive stage show of self important pomp and ceremony.

    So I don’t vote as none represrnt me, they represent using the tax system to steal from me to support a bloated system of waste and self important corrupt politicians that can’t tell the truth.

  5. All the Conservatives, lockstep lemmings to the undemocratic wishes of Harper. I was going to say they should feel ashamed, but shame apparently isn’t in their vocabulary. And what’s with the Liberals abstaining? Dancing to Just In’s tune?

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