By Tim Harper, Toronto Star, June 21, 2011
(Mr. Harper's column is based on an interview with current Conservative Senator, Lowell Murray who has served with distinction for 32 years.)
Under Harper’s legislation, the provinces and territories would be “strongly encouraged’’ to have voters choose a list of proposed senators to be appointed by the prime minister.
Senators appointed after October 2008 would be limited to one nine-year term.
As New Democrat David Christopherson points out, that is nine years, with a total salary of $1 million, an annual pension of about $35,000, with the senator being prohibited by law from ever being accountable to voters.
“It may technically be Senate reform, but it’s not democracy,’’ says Christopherson, his party’s democratic reform critic.
That means 36 Harper appointees (nine from Ontario) would be limited to nine-year terms...
But the clock only starts ticking on the nine-year term after the bill gets royal assent, meaning it could be 2021 before any must leave.
Many otherwise productive senators of a certain age would likely do what he might have done, turn down a job that has only a nine-year lifespan, meaning he or she would have to search new work in their 50s.
There would be the obvious tension of elected members working alongside appointed members, and, he says, the Senate becomes the elite body.
An Ontario senator would be elected province-wide and he or she would have a stronger mandate from more voters for a longer period of time than an MP from the province.
Such province-wide votes would also be biased against northern and rural representatives and would favour candidates from large urban centres home to large media.
It could also lead to U.S.-style gridlock.
(Senator Lowell) Murray also says if Harper were serious about reform, he would have gone directly to the Supreme Court of Canada because that’s where it is headed with a challenge from — at least — Quebec.
How far apart the serving Senator and the current Prime Minister are over this is anther sign of how things have changed. Murray was appointed by then Prime Minister Joe Clark, also a (Progressive) Conservative. Clark and Robert Stanfield before him and Brian Mulroney after him would hardly recognize the current version of Canadian conservativism under Harper. Dalton Camp, who served ably under all three Conservative regimes must be turning and twisting in his grave at the arrogance and the sheeer madness of this adminsitration, when compared with the progressive and moderate and thoughtful and responsible approaches that came with other recent Progressive Conservative administrations. Camp was a reputable, moderate "red" Tory, as we used to call them, far closer to the centre than to the far right, and his thoughts and views were available to all through his many columns over the decades, when he was not actively serving a Progressive Conservative Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition. It does appear that Canadians have either a short memory, or no memory at all, when it comes to comparisons of this government with other governments of the same history, tradition and partial name. One has to wonder how 'moderates' find any oxygen in the Cabinet room, under this PM.
Harper does not even have the support of his own appointees to the Senate, and it does not take a rocket scientist to discern that the Supreme Court will be the place where this matter is settled, and today we learn that both Quebec and Ontario plan Supreme Court challenges to the bill.
So why waste the government's time and energy over something that is at best an extremely flawed bill, when even its constitutionality is in question, and that from Conservative Senators who have been around Parliament Hill and served far more ably than the current occupant of the PMO?