What Canadian politician said “We don’t support any Senate appointments”?

Aug 27th, 2009 | By | Category: In Brief
Prime Minister Stephen Harper ... Photograph by: Chris Wattie, Reuters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper ... Photograph by: Chris Wattie, Reuters

The answer is of course Stephen Harper – back in January 1996, when he had less experience with Canada’s wicked capital city. (And thanks to such twitterers here as ktorrie – who also notes “Stephen Harper is unequalled in Canadian history as the only Prime Minister to make 27 Senate appointments in a single year.”)

The news that Mr. Harper, as Conservative minority prime minister in the late summer of 2009, has now filled the remaining nine vacancies in the Senate of Canada by old-fashioned patronage appointments has won some grudging admiration. (See the twittering eastonj: “Hate to say it, but [former Montreal Canadiens coach] Jacques Demers in the Senate is a smart, smart move for [the Tories’] Quebec fortunes. The Habs cross all party lines.”) Yet such hi-jinks have also quickly drawn predictable criticism from predictable quarters.

Prime Minister Harper himself ought to be more careful about his excuses. He says: “Until senators are elected, this government will ensure that we have in the Senate people who will work hard and will support the elected government of this country.” But more than 60% of the electorate voted against his party  in the last two elections. And one of several distressing weaknesses of democracy in Canada at the moment is the extent to which even a minority prime minister like Mr. Harper can still dominate so much of the federal state.

At the same time, Liberal National Director Rocco Rossi has quipped that “Harper is diligently working to solve the jobs crisis one Senate appointment at a time.” But if Liberals and New Democrats are going to criticize Mr. Harper’s belated resort to the bad old traditions of Senatorial patronage appointments, they really ought to have sensible reform policies of their own. This is one issue on which we the Canadian people are notoriously ill-served by all our political parties and leaders right now. And if it weren’t still the last few days of the summer holiday season, most of us probably would be outraged if necessary if not necessarily outraged.

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