Harper always loved US style politics now he is able to dispense pork on a grand scale taking advantage of our special Canadian characteristics of appointing people to our senate unlike the US. All those Conservative hacks and fellow travellers and august Conservative bag people have been awarded 130 k per year sugar plums until the ripe old age of 75. Of course critics may point out that perhaps Harper or a successor may have reformed the Senate by then.
Harper blasted for Senate picks
PM's choices include 2 journalists, an athlete and a philanthropist
Dec 23, 2008 04:30 AM
) Tonda MacCharles Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA–Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tapped the ranks of card-carrying Conservatives and others sympathetic to his agenda to fill 18 Senate vacancies, a move critics blasted as an abuse of power at a time when opposition parties are threatening to topple the minority government.
Harper's patronage appointments include broadcasters Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, a former separatist politician in Quebec, several defeated Tory candidates and other prominent Conservatives, including the party's chief fundraiser.
The appointments mark a change of heart for Harper, who has derided the Senate and tried to bring in reforms that would cap Senate terms to eight years, as well as start down the path to an elected Senate. But facing possible defeat in just a few weeks, Harper instead moved quickly to fill the existing vacancies with Conservative appointees.
David Christopherson, NDP democratic reform critic, slammed Harper's appointments as "hypocritical and undemocratic."
"The problem is that it's filled with so many identifiable Conservative hacks," he said in an interview.
Christopherson said Harper should have waited until after Parliament resumes on Jan. 26 and it becomes clear whether the Tory government will survive threats by the opposition to defeat it.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff did not speak publicly yesterday. In a statement, he said, "in appointing 18 senators while Parliament is prorogued, Stephen Harper has shown once again that he cannot be trusted."
Christopherson (Hamilton Centre) called on Governor General Michaëlle Jean, who must ratify Harper's picks, to hold off until after that date.
He cited a letter by constitutional lawyers to the Montreal newspaper La Presse, saying that a "growing body of expert opinion suggests the Prime Minister may be violating the Constitution by making these appointments without the confidence of the House of Commons."
With another 11 spots due to come open because of retirements in the next 12 months, the Prime Minister will likely be making further appointments, an aide said, if he remains in power.
"Our objective is to get a majority of senators in the Senate who support reform. That is our objective. Once reform is passed, everyone will be standing for elections," he told reporters at a background briefing yesterday.
"Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate," Harper said in a statement that accompanied the list of appointees.
"If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for," he said, referring to the Liberal-NDP coalition agreement that was signed before Harper sought prorogation of Parliament earlier this month to avoid a confidence vote.
Senators may sit until age 75, at an annual salary of $130,400.
There are 105 seats in the Senate. There are 58 Liberals, 38 Conservatives, three Progressive Conservatives, four independents, one independent New Democrat and one senator with no affiliation.
Duffy, 62, a long-time Parliament Hill journalist and host of a politics program on CTV, was named to the upper chamber as a representative for Prince Edward Island.
He'll be joined by Wallin, 55, his former colleague, who more recently has served as Canadian consul general in New York City as well as on an independent panel that made recommendations about the future of Canada's Afghan mission. Wallin was a reporter for the Toronto Star from 1978 to 1980.
Nancy Greene Raine, 65, who won gold and silver medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968, is also a new senator.
Also among those named are former federal candidates Fabian Manning, defeated in a Newfoundland riding in the recent election; John Wallace, former New Brunswick candidate in 2006; and Yonah Martin, a former B.C. candidate.
Irving Gerstein, credited with filling the party's war chest as head of the Conservative Fund, was named to an Ontario seat, as was Nicole Eaton, who chaired the past two party conventions.
The list includes Michel Rivard, a former Parti Québécois MNA who ran for the Canadian Alliance under Stockwell Day and is an organizer for the right-wing provincial Action démocratique du Québec.
Asked about the optics of appointing a former separatist to the Senate, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office defended Rivard's appointment, saying "people are allowed to change their beliefs."
It also includes Leo Housakos, a prominent Greek Montrealer, long-time Tory supporter and party organizer who is a close friend of Harper press aide Dimitri Soudas.
The federal ethics commissioner cleared Soudas and Housakos of allegations they intervened on behalf of a Montreal real estate developer involved in a legal dispute with the public works department.
A senior aide to Harper yesterday rebuffed criticisms that the picks were partisan, saying people on the list "have distinguished themselves in their chosen profession."
He singled out Gerstein, a businessman and Order of Canada recipient.
"It would be very difficult to say that this is someone who is unqualified to sit in the Senate. I think the Senate will be a better place for having him there," the aide said.
According to Harper's office, yesterday's appointees have all promised to support his plans for Senate reform, including eight-year term limits. But they are appointed under the same rules as all other senators for now.
Patrick Brazeau, an Algonquin who is chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, which represents off-reserve natives, said in an interview he made no promises to anyone about legislation he hasn't seen. However, he said that as a card-carrying Conservative, he supports Senate reform, including term limits, and will work to promote change.
Brazeau, at 34, will be the youngest sitting senator currently in the Red Chamber. "It's an honour and a privilege. Let's face it, very few people have an opportunity to do this. At my age, I couldn't say no."
Wallin said she couldn't refuse the promise of "another adventure."
She expects the Canada-U.S. relationship – "at the core of our economic success" – will be among her priorities when she takes her place in the Senate next month, thanks to the time she spent in New York.
She said that, contrary to some public perceptions, the Senate is tackling important policy issues.
"I think we're seeing other people take on issues and use that forum as a place to make change. You've got younger people who are energetic. I sense a change in the place. I'm really looking forward to it," she said in an interview yesterday from her parents' home in Wadena, Sask.
Wallin also expressed support for Harper's reform plans, even if it means running for election to keep her Senate seat.
"I will do what the Prime Minister and the premier, more specifically, expect of me," she said.
The Senate appointments are a blow to Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory's political prospects at Queen's Park.
Tory, who has been without a seat in the Legislature since losing the October 2007 election to Premier Dalton McGuinty's Liberals, had hoped one of his MPPs would be named to the Red Chamber. That would have opened up a seat for him to contest in a by-election.
Joyce Murray, Liberal critic on democratic reform issues, said the "key issue isn't who, it's what and the timing of this."
She said the Prime Minister's failure to honour his promise to only name elected senators, and to do so at a "time of historical lack of confidence in elected leaders," contributes to Canadians' cynicism about public life.
The advocacy group Democracy Watch called the appointments a continuation of Harper's practice of "patronage politics as usual, in violation of his promises not to do so."
- With files from Robert Benzie