One of Conservative leader — and Prime Minister — Stephen Harper’s electoral platforms since first running for election was to reform the appointed Canadian Senate. The house of “sober second thought” was filled with political appointees-for-life, who were seen increasingly as nothing but partisan dinosaurs.
Given, however, that Harper never had the political clout necessary to effect change — namely, a majority government — he has held his nose and played along, filling the Senate with his own partisan picks when he had the chance and biding his time until the opportunity arose to facilitate real change.
However, his latest move even has Harper loyalists wondering what he’s thinking. Three candidates in the May 2 election, all of whom were defeated at the polls, have just been given the political influence the voters stated clearly they didn’t want these candidates to have: they were all appointed to the Senate. Two candidates (Larry Smith and Fabian Manning) were formerly members of the Senate who specifically resigned their posts in order to run in the election; the third, Josee Verner, lost her incumbent seat.
Senate reform is not an unpopular concept among Canadians, particularly given recent revelations about attendance, overspending and lack of actual work performed by those in the Upper House. This move, however, is such a blatant nose-thumbing at the electorate that it’s actually baffling to contemplate. This move says to the electorate, your opinion doesn’t matter: These people are going to be in Parliament one way or another and your votes are irrelevant. Your voice is irrelevant.
The move was likely designed to spur desire for Senate reform in the electorate, but was it a step too far? What else will Harper try to pull over on the Canadian public in the next four years? And crucially, will Canadians notice? Or care?
Photo credit: M_Walzeriksson on Flickr