Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Little Senate History and a Little Senate Reality Check

Stephen Harper is taking a lot of heat over his latest senate appointments and re-appointments. Some are calling it historic and Kady O-Malley has a brilliant posting on Sir John A. and his identical move.

CTV quotes two premiers who question Harper's move, but a comment by Craig Oliver has me fuming:
Craig Oliver, CTV's chief political correspondent, said the move follows a long Liberal tradition of stacking the Senate with party loyalists. However, he said the main difference is that the Conservatives have long argued against Senate appointments being used as political prizes for party supporters.
OK. With all due respect, I know it's important to explain away everything Harper does by suggesting that the Liberals did it first, but that's just lazy journalism.

So if there is anyone reading this who is in the media, listen up. That will no longer fly. If Kady can find century old stories to show that Harper wasn't the first to spit in the face of democracy, appointing senators already rejected by Canadians, I'll fill you in on a bit of senate history.

As to appointing flunkies, you don't have to go back to Sir John A.

Brian Mulroney added senate seats to get his GST passed, but also used the upper chamber as a lottery to the faithful.

Marjorie LeBreton, now Leader of the Government in the Canadian Senate, played the role of kingmaker, a job formerly handled by Peter White, who went back to work for Conrad Black.
Marjory LeBreton took over the unofficial patronage portfolio after Peter White's departure ... LeBreton dealt with dozens of demands and requests, particularly when Senate seats became available. Seven prominent Tories explicitly asked for appointments: .. "I had John Reynolds on the phone lobbying for a Senate seat for himself, and giving me this pitch that it should be someone that could go on the talk shows. I said, "Gee, John, I haven't noticed you being out there." (1)
And in another bit of history, as two of Harper senators could face jail time for their roles in the "in and out" scandal, two of Mulroney's senators also got into hot water.
That has left most Canadians with another indelible image: that of another Tory senator led from court in handcuffs - only to return to a Senate seat, pending appeal. Both Berntson, 57, and Senator Michel Cogger*, 60, who was convicted last July of influence peddling, showed up unexpectedly for Senate duties on Wednesday. They sat side by side in an isolated corner of the upper chamber while catcalls of "shame" came from Reformers and New Democrats in the nearby House of Commons. (2)
And Paul Martin appointed two conservative senators: Hugh Segal and Nancy Ruth.

So these attacks against anyone or anything Liberal, are getting old.

Jack Layton still likes to throw around Adscam, and just being Liberal links you to the scandal. He'd best be careful, because his dad was in Brian Mulroney's cabinet and I doubt he'd like it if he got linked to Mulroney's cronyism.

It's time the media started to judge Stephen Harper on his own. He's had five years to show us how he will run things, and his latest actions are only part of a very long list of political crimes.

Time to hold him to account.


1. The Secret Mulroney Tapes: Unguarded Confessions of a Prime Minister, By Peter C. Newman, Clandebye Ltd., 2005, ISBN: 10-0-679-31351-6, Pg. 418

2. Saskandal, By: Robert Shephard, MacLeans, March 29, 1999