Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Senate showdown

With Prime Minister Harper proroguing parliament until March, OMG another month while the Olympics are on!, there is speculation that he will appoint the 5 vacant Senate seats fairly soon.  Here are the current standings in the Senate:

Liberal Party
Conservative Party
Progressive Conservative
(McCoy, Murray)
(Pitfield, Rivest)
Vacant seats
New Brunswick (1), Newfoundland and Labrador (1), Ontario (2), Quebec (1)

So with 5 more Senate seats for them, the Conservatives won't have a majority, but a plurality.

Now, Kady O'Malley at CBC.ca has brought up an interesting possibility, that Harper may invoke Section 26 of the Constitution and appoint an additional 8 Senators, as Mulroney did to pass the GST.

If Harper did just that, I would take it as a strong signal that he does plan to reform the Senate somehow without opening the Constitution.  The optics would not be good, however, but that hasn't seemed to have stopped him before with the recent prorogue and the one last year.

My guess is that he'll see if he can put through new legislation in the new session beginning in March and if further progress is NOT made on key bills, and the reworked senate committees still stall legislation, then this will show that he's justified in making the additional 8 appointments to get things done.

Then, how much will this invigorate the opposition parties to vote down the government on the budget or other bill, say in a quasi-coalition?  Uh oh!

And so there's that word again, the trump card of national unity!  Hello majority.  Hello reformed senate.  Hello bill to kill funding for political parties. Goodbye Bloc. Goodbye Liberals.  Hello NDP opposition.

Am I dreaming here?  Perhaps.  My guess is that this is has been Harper's long-game strategy approach all along.  He must tread very carefully.

All that said, if Iggy's Liberals do not vote down the budget, then is he just stalling for the inevitable anyway?


Unknown said...

Prorogation was required to do a reset of committee control and Senate leadership after the appointments.

A bill in the Senate to require "reaffirmation" of appointment, or for transfers of control of the chamber, etc. would be quite logical.

As for an NDP Opposition, your guess is as good as mine. But I don't think it would be a bad thing for the country to give them a chance at it.

Mike B. said...

At Iggy's year-end interview on CTV, it was suggested that the Liberals face being squished out of existence from the right and left, as what happened to the British Liberals. You never know!