Friday, August 28, 2009

Even Stephen

The Globe's front-page headline of "HARPER GETS EVEN" was somewhat more charitable than what I would have run with. But, then again, "HARPER GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING HE'S EVER SAID IN 'UNDEMOCRATIC' AND HYPOCRITICAL MOVE" might not have fit above the fold. So, fair enough.

Still, I look forward to future headlines such as "HARPER GETS EVEN: Sets up sponsorship program to funnel cash to Tory friendly ad firms" and "HARPER GETS EVEN: Will raise GST by 2 points" in the near future...

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47 Comments:

  • So are you against patronage appointments? Perhaps we should be working together to change the system.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 10:28 AM  

  • I certainly can agree with Conservative partisans that the Liberals have been un-cooperative in reform; really though, how much effort has Harper put in? What's been stopping him from getting Preston Manning and a friendly progressive in favor of reform doing cross-country talks or media or events? The PMO has done little, if anything, to get the country to tell the government what it wants.

    Conservative partisans will tell us all how much paperwork the Harper government has drawn up on the issue, which is bullshit. It's the 21st century, and they've given at best a 19th century college try. Pathetic.

    F for Failure on this whole issue. The way we all mock Chretien on the GST is how we'll one day mock Harper for Senate promises.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 10:53 AM  

  • I certainly can agree with Conservative partisans that the Liberals have been un-cooperative in reform; really though, how much effort has Harper put in? What's been stopping him from getting Preston Manning and a friendly progressive in favor of reform doing cross-country talks or media or events? The PMO has done little, if anything, to get the country to tell the government what it wants.

    Conservative partisans will tell us all how much paperwork the Harper government has drawn up on the issue, which is bullshit. It's the 21st century, and they've given at best a 19th century college try. Pathetic.

    F for Failure on this whole issue. The way we all mock Chretien on the GST is how we'll one day mock Harper for Senate promises.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 10:53 AM  

  • Baby steps, JBG.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 10:56 AM  

  • in appointing people who are committed to reforming the Chamber, Mr. Harper is “choosing the lesser of two evils.”
    That's an interesting viewpoint... I'm not convinced, but if in time Harper creates a Senate which reforms itself, then I'll happily take all I've said on the matter back.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 10:59 AM  

  • I'm not sure Joanne understands that if Harper really cared about his reforms he would have stuck by his original views & values.

    Instead we have a Prime Minister who is by far wose then the Liberals he used to attack for their Senate appointments. Must be difficult being a conservative in a party that no longer has any values.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:09 AM  

  • Joanne, if you think shuffling around legal documents in government offices in today's world is any kind of "baby step" to a vast, sweeping reform of a major institution, then you're either naive or you just haven't changed the calendar in 20 years.

    I'll happily eat my words if Harper can deliver, but you cannot honestly claim to confidently know that he will do so, as based on his recent actions. If you try, then you're just a liar.

    You would never accept "baby steps" as an excuse from a Liberal PM, Joanne - I'm with you that far, however my disapproval is far more adaptable than yours, and can also extend to a Conservative one.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 11:12 AM  

  • Jason's right. Harper could have put this on the agenda and really pushed it. He gave it a half-assed effort a few years ago and kind of shrugged it off as an issue.

    If he's serious to do what he promised, he'd actual put some legislation in the House on this topic and aggressively try to sell it. Hell, for all we know, Ignatieff would be warm to Senate reform.

    Then, if it fails, he'd have a valid argument to make. But I really fail to see how Tory hacks instead of Liberal hacks really advances the cause of Senate reform.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:36 AM  

  • And, to add, Harper is still breaking a categorical promise he made not to appoint senators. Like the McGuinty health premium flip-flop, there are circumstances for sure, but it's still a broken promise, so he should be called out on it.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 11:37 AM  

  • Thats the key issue for me; the fact that Harper continues to say one thing and do the exact opposite. I have no problem with the pics this time around. I have a problem with a PM us is simply full of it when it comes to "acting different than previous governments." Don't promise you'll do things differently if you don't have the guts for a sustained fight. True senate reform will probably have to wait for the next non-Harper administration.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:49 AM  

  • Please name one politician other than Mike Harris who ever did exactly what he said he would do.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 12:58 PM  

  • Jason's right. Harper could have put this on the agenda and really pushed it. He gave it a half-assed effort a few years ago and kind of shrugged it off as an issue.

    If he's serious to do what he promised, he'd actual put some legislation in the House on this topic and aggressively try to sell it.



    Dan - FYI. Three times, Dan.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 1:05 PM  

  • But I really fail to see how Tory hacks instead of Liberal hacks really advances the cause of Senate reform.

    It illustrates the problem with a concrete example. It hits the naysayers over the head and says, "O.K., so you want to play it your way? Fine."

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 1:09 PM  

  • Just for the record, or for the croaking chorus of "the Libs did it too", Paul Martin appointed 17 Senators. Twelve were Liberals (a few were party hacks like Art Eggleton, but the majority of the 12 were good appointments). Four were Conservative: Andree Champagne of Quebec, Elaine McCoy of Calgary, Nancy Ruth of Toronto and Hugh Segal of Kingston--yeah *that* Hugh Segal and there was one NDPer--Lilian Dyck of Saskatchewan.

    I'm no great fan of PM, but he really did acknowledge that he led a minority government and tried to be as fair as he could be regarding Senate appointments. A lot of Liberals had their noses out of joint over them, especially Segal.

    By Anonymous joe frantic, at 1:17 PM  

  • Term limits make some sense, I suppose, but it's still a far cry from what Harper's promised to do on Senate reform.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 1:28 PM  

  • "It illustrates the problem with a concrete example. It hits the naysayers over the head and says, "O.K., so you want to play it your way? Fine."

    Yeah, it basically says Harper has broken his promise to conservatives. I never heard any Liberal talking about the need to appoint elected Senators to only have them appoint people close to the PM. Harper on the other hand has spent years yelling about the patronage and yet here he is appointing people like Don Plett to the Senate.

    "You had an option, sir. You could have said, 'I am not going to do it. This is wrong for Canada, and I am not going to ask Canadians to pay the price.' You had an option, sir--to say 'no'--and you chose to say 'yes' to the old attitudes and the old stories of the Liberal Party. That sir, if I may say respectfully, that is not good enough for Canadians."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:32 PM  

  • Yeah, it basically says Harper has broken his promise to conservatives.

    I won't pretend that this is going down easily with True Blue Conservatives.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 1:36 PM  

  • Term limits make some sense, I suppose, but it's still a far cry from what Harper's promised to do on Senate reform.

    As I understand it, limiting terms is all that can be accomplished without opening up the constitution, which is apparently some kind of taboo.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 1:39 PM  

  • That's it? You've got nothing else?

    How about this from Barbara Yaffee of all people:

    "...Nor do the Liberals have any credibility on this issue because for decades they've used the Upper House as a dumping ground for Grit hacks and flacks, and would do so again, if given the chance. The party has shown scant willingness to reform the Senate..."

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 2:37 PM  

  • I think the Liberal attack is not so much on the patronage itself, but on the flip-flop/broken promise/hypocritical nature of this.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 2:57 PM  

  • "I think the Liberal attack is not so much on the patronage itself, but on the flip-flop/broken promise/hypocritical nature of this."

    When are you doing your piece on Obama and his flip-flop/broken promise/hypocritcal nature?
    You can start by sourcing Maureen Dowd in the NY Times, Dan Savage in The Advocate and Cindy Sheehan's blog.
    Politicians break promises all the time, that is why they use phrases like "We hope to.." and "We plan on.." when making them.
    Or are you trying to distract people from Iggy's plan to bring down Harper over EI?

    By Blogger nuna d. above, at 3:27 PM  

  • It illustrates the problem with a concrete example.

    Umm - we already have a concrete example of Senate appointment abuse by the Liberals. Why would we need Conservative abuse of it as well -- how is that highlighting or illustrating the problem more concretely than it already was?

    Dan - FYI. Three times, Dan.

    Gee thanks Joanne... but we all read the same news as you do, hello -- the key part of the discussion (which you're apparently unable to either grasp or follow) is the "aggressive selling" part. Harper has never lifted a finger to begin conceiving of a formula for a strategy to sell Canadians on Senate reform. It's an almost impossible uphill battle against entrenched political interests to radically transform an ancient institution -- only the will of the people will force change this dramatic, and Harper's been totally unable to get the ball rolling. He's a very talented and skilled manager, but as a leader, he gets a failing grade.

    Read my lips you partisan hack zombie: PATRONAGE APPOINTMENTS ARE WRONG AND FUNDAMENTALLY UNDEMOCRATIC. If it's wrong for one party, it's wrong for ALL parties. Just because you're a Tory doesn't mean it's okay for the Tories.

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 3:34 PM  

  • Well, I am going to come out against and say that until the is fundamental constitutional change in the senate, which is the only change that is legal, it is right to make patronage appoints, Liberal or Conservative.

    Of course, that doesn't make Harper less of a hypocrite, less of a Senate Patronage King.

    By Blogger Kyle G. Olsen, at 4:25 PM  

  • Sorry for the zombie bit, Joanne.

    I'll be honest with you, I love you as a writer and a blogger, but I just don't think we're having an honest conversation here. It's an important issue to me - maybe it shouldn't be, it's just a freaking Senate after all, but I get passionate about it. I don't believe you would cut Trudeau the kind of slack you're cutting Harper right now. I respect you as a conservative and a person, but I think it's lacking integrity for a leftist to cut the NDP slack they never would to Republicans, and I think the same thing here.

    Regardless of my feelings, I ought not have called you a zombie, and I'm sorry.

    But I mean the partisan hack part. :P

    By Anonymous Jason Bo Green, at 4:26 PM  

  • I think the Liberal attack is not so much on the patronage itself, but on the flip-flop/broken promise/hypocritical nature of this.

    Dan, they all do it. The Liberals are trying to deflect the real story - which is that the Senate badly needs to be reassessed. And Stephen Harper has people talking about it now. That is a good thing.

    JBG - Are you calling me a 'partisan hack zombie'? That's too bad. I used to respect you.

    Well, the fun and games here has turned to name-calling, so that's when I take the hint that it's time to leave.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 4:29 PM  

  • But I mean the partisan hack part. :P

    I can handle that. And I still respect you, FWIW.

    I honestly think Harper is trying to rub their faces in it here. And by 'they' I mean the ones that are dead-set against any change at all in the Senate.

    But maybe I'm drinking too much of the Blue Koolaid.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 5:39 PM  

  • What are the odds as to how many of Harper's Senators will still be Senating after their - he-he - "eight year terms" are up?

    By Anonymous fred from matane, at 11:01 PM  

  • For the record, both Martin and Dion agreed senate reform is desirable. They simply disagree it can be done the way Harper is doing it.

    The problem is that true, substantive senate reform requires a constitutional amendment. The real lie being peddled by Harper is that it can be achieved through legislation (which is probably why he is not trying to hard to even achieve what he has proposed). I believe he true aim here is not reform, but rather fundraising. I am quite confident CPC donors get letters begging for money each and every time the CPC make up some story about their legislation being held up in the senate.

    I fail to see how term limits make the upper house more democratic. The real issue is the disproportionate number of seats per province.

    So many conservatives seem to believe these "baby steps" are steps on their way to a Triple E Senate, and yet Harper has never said he would support such a thing.

    I, for one, would like to know what Harper's end game is. Maybe he can be honest with us and let us know.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 10:06 AM  

  • Harper appoints unelected Senators; Liberals outraged.
    Harper appoints elected Senator; Liberals outraged.
    Harper leaves Senate seats vacant; Liberals outraged.

    (And yes, the Senate can be made elected without changing the Constitution. Getting the "equal" part will require it, though.)

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 12:22 PM  

  • Hand - are you an expert in constitutional law? You are pretty definitive in your assertion elected senators are constitutional. I assume you are aware that opinions from actual constitutional experts are mixed.

    In any event, in your preamble you forgot to mention the fact that the appointments are CPC party hacks, and that the so-called "outrage" is directed to Harper's hypocrisy on that point, and not the fact he appointed senators.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 1:43 PM  


  • I fail to see how term limits make the upper house more democratic. The real issue is the disproportionate number of seats per province.


    So in your ideal world, what would you do about that, Gayle?

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 6:56 PM  

  • Well Joanne - in my ideal world (the one where it would be perfectly OK to reopen the constitution without having to address any other sticky issue), I would reopen the constitution and negotiate representation that is proportionate to the population, or equal representation per province.

    But of course that ideal world does not exist, so our government has to act in a manner that does not play fast and loose with the rule of law, and ends up making things worse instead of better.

    What I think ought to be done by anyone who is serious about senate reform is consult experts (and not just the ones who you bring in after the fact to say your legislation is OK) and consider all possibilities. Is it preferable to have equal representation per province or proportionate representation per province? If we choose the latter route, what mechanism can we put in place to ensure the represenation remains proportionate without the necessity or re-opening the constitution? Consult your experts, build a plan, tell us what your end game is, and then let the people decide.

    See, there are important questions to be addressed, and consequences to consider, before you start messing with long standing government institutions. That does not mean you do not change things - it just means you do it right.

    But, as I said before, I do not think Harper has any intention of truly reforming the senate. Like many things, this is a fundraising ploy, and nothing more.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 7:09 PM  

  • So Gayle, do you have any evidence of any other party pursuing the kind of initiatives that you are suggesting?

    Or are they content with the status quo?

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 7:50 PM  

  • Of course no other party is doing that, as you well know.
    No one wants to start messing around with the constitution.

    My point is that Harper is not doing anything of substance for the very same reason. He does not want to mess around with the constitution any more than Ignatieff.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 8:05 PM  

  • Gayle, I'm going to pretend for a moment that you are right, and then ask why is everyone so afraid to open up the constitution?

    And why are most provinces so against an unelected Senate?

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 8:13 PM  

  • Er, s/b why are most provinces so against an elected Senate?

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 8:15 PM  

  • I cannot speak for the provinces of course, but I assume they oppose a reform process that does not include their input. Constitutional reform would have to include them. Harper is trying to do an end run around them.

    Do you think there is any appetite for reopening the constitution right now? Remember what happened the last time a prime minister tried doing that. There is no chance senate reform would be the only issue on the table.

    So, yes, in theory most people support senate reform. They only oppose it when they learn what it actually takes to accomplish it.

    Now here is my question for you?

    Why do you think Harper has not informed us of his vision of a fully reformed senate? Do you think it ends at elections, or does he plan on doing more?

    I ask because of the many conservatives in my province who seem to believe he supports a Triple E Senate, despite the fact he is not saying that.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 9:04 PM  

  • despite the fact he is not saying that.

    Do you have a link for that Gayle? Thanks.

    I can't address your argument and your questions until I see the information that you are referring to.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 8:52 AM  

  • I cannot find you a link to something he is not saying. He is not saying it.

    The party's policy is to support equal represenation, but I cannot find anywhere where Harper says that is what he is trying to achieve, or a time line for achieving it.

    Meanwhile, he wants to create some weird mixture of accountable and "unaccountable" senators, some of whom will believe they have more legitimacy than others, and without addressing the real need for reform in equity for the provinces.

    So, again, what do you think Harper's final vision is for the senate? Your question suggests you do not know.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 11:06 AM  

  • Hand - are you an expert in constitutional law? You are pretty definitive in your assertion elected senators are constitutional. I assume you are aware that opinions from actual constitutional experts are mixed.

    I am definitive in my assertion because the Canadian constitution says the following:

    The Governor General shall from Time to Time, in the Queen's Name, by Instrument under the Great Seal of Canada, summon qualified Persons to the Senate; and, subject to the Provisions of this Act, every Person so summoned shall become and be a Member of the Senate and a Senator.

    In other words, it's entirely up to the Governor General who goes in the Senate. Currently, the accepted practice is that the GG appoints whoever the PM tells her to appoint. But there is absolutely nothing in the constitution to stop the accepted practice from changing to "appoint whoever wins a Senate election."

    Any "constitutional expert" who claims that an elected Senators are unconstitutional clearly has no idea what they're talking about.

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 1:57 AM  

  • Gayle, here's a link from 2006 which took me all of a nanosecond to find:

    "Prime Minister Stephen Harper would like to see Canadians in a position to start electing their senators by the time of the next federal election.

    Harper announced plans Tuesday to impose eight-year term limits on new senators, part of new democratic reforms.

    In an exclusive interview with CTV News and The Globe and Mail, the prime minister was asked why he wouldn't go all the way to electing senators.

    "That is a more controversial measure and one that I am prepared to look at in this term of government. What we thought we would start with would be a measure that we thought everyone could agree with," Harper said.

    In terms of electing a senator in the next federal election, he said: "I hope so. We're still looking at exactly how we're going to do that.

    However, the first step is the imposition of term limits."


    I think the plan still holds, but it will have to be achieved with baby steps.

    By Blogger Joanne (True Blue), at 8:18 AM  

  • I see Harper also spoke about fixed election dates in that interview, and we all know how that one turned out.

    Anyway, I take it you use this interview as proof there will be no movement on an equal senate. In that case, Harper should a) make sure that is clear since so many people are under the clearly wrong impression that part of his senate reform package includes fixing the disproportionate representation in the senate, and b) consider the problem of having some senators who are "legitimate" and others who are not, adn c) consider the problem of having a more politicized senate, where the senators are going to have to conduct themselves in a certain fashion to be reelected when provinces like Alberta and BC are woefully underrepresented in the senate. How is this fair for them?

    By Blogger Gayle, at 9:49 AM  

  • Hand - we all know how to read. It is how we interpret that counts, and as I pointed out, there are many constitional experts who believe an amendment is required for an elected senate.

    But hey, I am sure these renowned professors of law will be amused by the fact that you do not think they are experts.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 9:51 AM  

  • Hand - we all know how to read. It is how we interpret that counts

    And how exactly could the constitution be interpreted to prohibit Senate elections?

    and as I pointed out, there are many constitional experts who believe an amendment is required for an elected senate.

    And why exactly do these (unnamed) constitutional experts believe that electing Senators is unconstitutional?

    But hey, I am sure these renowned professors of law will be amused by the fact that you do not think they are experts.

    I didn't say they weren't experts, I'm just saying that if they believe Senate elections are unconstitutional, they're clearly wrong on this issue.

    PS- Do you consider Bert Brown's current presence in the Senate to be unconstitutional?

    By Anonymous The Invisible Hand, at 8:09 PM  

  • Hand - the problem is not with Bert Brown's appointment, it is with Harper's proposed law that calls for elected senators.

    And here are some of those experts, who testified before the Parliamentary committees, on why they say the bill is unconstitutional. I will let you read their own words:

    http://www.cba.org/CBA/submissions/pdf/08-23-eng.pdf

    http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=3459539&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=39&Ses=2

    Unless you are sitting on the SCC, and you know that at least 4 other SCC judges are going to agree with you, you have no idea whether or not the proposal is constitutional as there is no definitive answer on whether this proposed legislation is constitutional. That would probably be because there is much more to the constitution than that little part you quoted.

    By Blogger Gayle, at 12:53 AM  

  • Harper got high rating in pool survey.

    By Anonymous tuxedo best, at 9:34 AM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:57 PM  

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