01.09.2012 12:43 PM

McParland nails it again

Man, this guy is on fire, these days.  Well worth a read:

It’s a monumentally bad idea, maybe the Tories’ worst. There are plenty of other problems facing the Tories. They don’t need to create a new disaster for themselves, or for the country.

46 Comments

  1. Dan says:

    I don’t think most Canadians really know how the Senate would affect them. It’s a marginal issue for most people.

    That being said, when we follow the American political system off a cliff, I hope Canadians would have the good sense to figure out that it all started here and now.

    • Dan says:

      And that demonstrates the lack of understanding why a compromise was even necessary, considering that compromise unraveled in civil war over a particularly nasty issue. Perhaps you should google “three fifths”.

      • Dan says:

        We already have an elected body that represents us: it’s called parliament. And we already have a body to protect provincial rights: it’s called the Supreme Court, who follows the constitution act.

        Moreover, copying a system that was meant to protect “states rights” in the U.S. is pretty ignorant, especially once your recognize which “states rights” those Americans were most concerned with protecting.

  2. sharonapple88 says:

    The ability to cause gridlock forces compromise.

    Or political blackmail, as we’ve seen in the last few months in American politics.

    • Ted says:

      How exactly would the Senate have blocked the NEP?

      The Province of Alberta agreed to the NEP. Lougheed signature and approval is public.

      I’m not sure what piece of legislation actually made it’s way through the House that would have even come up in front of the Senate, but:

      1. What makes you think 9 provinces out of 10 wouldn’t have approved it anyway?

      2. What makes you think Senators would go against the wishes of the Prime Minister and the Premier of Alberta?

      • Jason King says:

        “AB, SK, BC, NL and Ns would all likely have voted against the NEP.”

        Pure speculation Gord. Stick to reality please.

  3. Ted says:

    It would be worse than the gridlock of the US. At least with the US, you have a President with real veto power. That holds the House and the Senate somewhat in check because they know they have to get the President’s approval or else all of their work is for naught.

    But laws in the US are awful and they are awful because of an equal Senate and House (and because of a 2 year voting cycle). Very few actually read the laws they vote on because they are so full of so much compromise. Look at how the health care bill got bastardized so instead of making everyone somewhat happy, it makes no one happy.

    Having said that, there is one part of me that does favour a reformed instead of abolished Senate. It is the strong, Sir John A/Trudeau federalist in me. It is conservatives who should be the least interested in making the Senate effective. Elected representatives are busybodies and will need to work to get elected and “prove” themselves. If they sit there and get nothing done at a national level, they will be easy targets. And no one gets elected promising to “do less”.

    So an effective Senate, especially if it is elected, will give us a stronger federal government that takes on more national projects. Which is good.

    Getting there with legislative gridlock will not be.

    • Ted says:

      Good point on the supermajority. That makes it worse now since fillibustering has become common in the last decade or so requiring a supermajority to do anything at all. That is sick.

      But if you look at the legislation that gets passed, the “compromises”, you’ll see just how sick lawmaking is in the US. Take a look at the actual laws and the kinds of junk that gets dumped in so it can get through both houses and how no one can ever really take a stand on an issue.

      (Here in Canada we have the opposite problem: a boneheaded government so bent on NOT accepting ANY changes that they are passing laws with boneheaded mistakes.)

      You say bipartisanship is over-rated and then say co-equal houses of Parliament will be great. That just doesn’t add up.

      We would be screwing up government if the senate was more effective where instead of a body of sober second thought immune to the vagaries of emotional populist up and down, you would have another layer of activist government and partisan politicking.

      Don’t get me wrong, I think having a stronger and more active and more centralized federal government is a good thing (and inevitable with a triple E senate). It makes Canada stronger. But this is not the way to get it.

  4. Ted says:

    Sorry but gridlock is gridlock. It doesn’t “force” compromise.

    And your examples of protecting smaller provinces against stuff like the NEP, the gun registry, etc. are laughable.

    There will be more national programs like these not less with an effective Senate, especially if it is elected. No one gets elected promising to get less done or gets re-elected by sayin “see how little I did”.

    An elected and effective Senate will mean a more active federal government. In fact, the federal government will have more to say about provincial affairs because Senators will be able to claim they represent the province just as much as the Premiers.

    Which is a good thing. Our provincialism hurts us. Sir John A envisioned a much much stronger federal government than we have and much much much stronger federal government than Harper envisions.

    With Harper’s reforms, the pendulum will start to swing back to Sir John A and Trudeau’s vision of a strong central/federal government.

    (If the reforms ever passed the Constitutionality test, which is not likely.)

    • Ted says:

      I don’t know what makes you think a triple E senate would have blocked NEP or the gun registry. It doesn’t follow at all.

      Like in the US, there will be gridlock. But that doesn’t mean nothing will ever get done. The way out of gridlock will be ever expanding government. It absolutely stuns me that conservatives are so behind a triple E senate. There is no single way to better assure the expansion of the federal government.

      An unelected or ineffective senate doesn’t have to cater to anyone. You think something should be done about something? They’ll study it and maybe they’ll do something about it and maybe not. Now if they are up for election or re-election? You better believe they’ll promise to spend taxpayer dollars to do something about it.

      Harper’s plan to limit terms is clearly unconstitutional without a constitutional amendment. It’s why a constitutional amendment was necessary to limit life terms to forced retirement at 75 years old.

      Having an election requirement is also clearly unconstitutional without a constitutional amendment. That’s why the legislation, if you actually bothered to read it, doesn’t actually require Harper to do anything if someone gets elected. An election is just advice. It’s a joke which is why the provinces have ignored him and why he ignores the provinces. He couches it in a whole bunch of motherhood language but Harper – who is not stupid – knows that if he tried to make an election binding and enforceable it would be unenforceable because it would be unconstitutional. Without a constitutional change, nothing is allowed to fetter the Crown’s discretion on the advice of the PM. He did the same trick with “fixed” election dates that he can ignore.

      • The Doctor says:

        “It absolutely stuns me that conservatives are so behind a triple E senate.”

        Ted, I think it would be more accurate to say that CERTAIN conservatives are hot and horny about a EEE senate. Mainly the old Reformers.

    • Pete says:

      One of the things that will happen is many more side deals and hidden legilsation will be te comprimise as it is in the US where many many many things get added to major bills going through the senate

  5. smelter rat says:

    Gord, by that measure, the USA must be a paragon of progressive legislation, cooperation and political camraderie. Their current legislative gridlock must simply be an illusion.

    • smelter rat says:

      Clearly you’ve forgotten the “Axis of Evil” speech. As to the odds of any of the Repub clowns currently running for the GOP leadership becoming President, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

  6. The Doctor says:

    I’ve never understood certain peoples’ fetish/obsession over the Senate. I just wish it would wither away and die, personally. Alternatively, keep it as is: a somewhat useful place to reward hacks for their service and to allow them to publish occasionally useful studies (e.g., the stuff that Michael Kirby did on health care).

    But certain wonks just won’t leave it alone.

    Plus it became this article of faith in Alberta in the 70s and 80s that Senate reform was the answer to Western alienation — a premise I always found to be questionable at best, on many levels.

    I think this is an example of where the CPC is trapped by its Reformist legacy — senate reform was a personal obsession of Preston Manning’s, and it remains an article of faith among Western Reform-sourced Conservatives that it should proceed. I agree with people who say that pushing this and/or ultimately implementing this could end up ironically damaging the CPC, via the law of unintended consequences.

    • The Doctor says:

      Your arguments don’t convince me. If Canadians are stupid enough to vote in a NDP federal government, then we should have to live with the consequences of our actions.

      It seems to me your underlying premise is that something is broken that needs to be fixed. My underlying premise is that I don’t see our current system as being broken in the way that you do. And in addition, I’m not convinced that a EEE Senate would have the wonderful, salutary effects that you seem to think it would have.

      • Philip says:

        Well said. Of all the issues faced in Canada today, destroying something that isn’t particularly broken, shouldn’t be high on the list. Moreover creating another elected legislative branch just seems like begging for trouble.

  7. smelter rat says:

    I wish that the reformers who idolize the US system so much would just fucking get it over with, move there and leave the rest of us alone.

    • pomojen says:

      One irritated guy under pseudonym writes something that demonstrates his irritation.
      You’re bar for evidence is pretty low.

    • smelter rat says:

      Gord, the fact that I even read your bilge should prove the point that I’m tolerant beyond belief.

  8. GPAlta says:

    The Senate should be a national proportional representation house. If it were, the 70% of Canadians who voted against the Conservatives would have a voice, the number of elected women in parliament would jump considerably (as it always does in PR, because schemes that put women in un-winnable contests as tokens don’t work with PR), the diversity of ideas in parliament would be increased (green would have more than one seat, as would other parties currently excluded), aboriginal people could finally vote effectively as a block if a party spoke directly to their issues, as could any minority group, and the national interest in protecting minorities from the tyranny of majorities would prevail. Our democratic deficit is not caused by too little regionalism, it is caused by too much, with every single MP caring about nothing more than getting re-elected in one riding.

    A powerful elected PR Senate would require that the government have a majority in each house or at least an overall majority in parliament in order to govern, and that would force parties to form coalitions. It would be the end of appointing the prime minister strictly based on the majority in the House of Commons unless they can form a government for all of Parliament, and I think that would be great. In today’s context you would have almost half of the house plus almost three quarters of the senate forming the government, and the poor little Conservative rump stewing about their “mandate”.

    This is why the conservatives want to “reform” the senate now, before someone else points out that the majority consensus is unrepresented. If they can fix it so that the minority can govern in perpetuity, they will have achieved their goal: tyranny of the conservative minority over one of the world’s most progressive countries. They want to take away the majority’s power before it even realizes what power it has.

    • Ted says:

      Good catch.

      It wasn’t 70%. It was 76% of eligible voters who voted for someone else.

      • Ted says:

        Correction:

        It was 76% of eligible voters who did not vote for Harper.

        That’s what I meant to write.

        • Ted says:

          GPAlta’s point is that our MPs do not represent us.

          76% of eligible voters did not vote for Harper and yet he has the power (as did Chretien, Mulroney, Trudeau, etc.) to do as he pleases.

          Only 24% of eligible voters voted for Harper.

          Of those who voted, 39% voted for Harper. The beneficiary of a very low voter turnout once again.

    • GPAlta says:

      My apologies, 60% voted against Harper, while many others didn’t vote because Harper has made their votes irrelevant for so long by holding parliament hostage when he can and locking the doors when he can’t, why would anyone vote in that context?

      More importantly–The only way to get the best representation regardless of race and gender is to break through the racist and sexist barriers that allow incompetent white males preferrential access to power while excluding exceptional people from other backgrouds. PR is a proven way of breaking through those otherwise insidious barriers.

      As to the conservatives occasionally being able to form governments even under PR, that is proof that it works, not that it doesn’t.

  9. A.Bo says:

    @ Gord :
    A Man’s Got to Know his Limitations.

    You have exceeded yours and have become tedious.
    Friendly advice, move on or become ignored. Too late.

    • Mike Foulds says:

      On the contrary, Gord offers me rare glimpses into what cons are thinking. I have never agreed with anything he has said but at least by sharing his opinions I learn something. He has at least considered his opinion. Why he comes to the conclusions he does is beyond me.

      • The Doctor says:

        “Gord offers me rare glimpses into what cons are thinking.”

        I didn’t realize that the CPC, or any other conservative organization, had appointed Gord as its spokesperson. I think in many respects, Gord is rather “out there”.

        Bear in mind that, in one of the most ignored poll results of recent years, a poll came out a couple of years ago that revealed that a very sizeable majority of Canadians who identified as conservative voters had a favourable view of Barack Obama and favoured him to win the 2008 presidential election. Gordie loathes Obama. I think you’d find that most conservative voters in Canada don’t share that baleful view of Obama.

    • Cynical says:

      Way too late.
      Anyone who uses Mark Steyn as a reference has jumped the shark.

      • patrick deberg says:

        Gord you big loveable Steyn groupie ,

        Heres another fan !

        ” Anders Behring Breivik, ”

        Loves Steyn

        Read all his books.

        Wants to bring about this Conserative dream.

        Enjoy Utopia Gord!!

        Just watch your back……..

  10. JH says:

    I just want someone to give me a preferred option. Should the PM leave the seats empty for the next guy to fill? Do you think for a minute a new NDP or Liberal PM wouldn’t fill them? C’mon be honest now. Should the PM open up the constitution and then debate shutting it down altogether? I’m just an ordinary citizen and I’d really like to know what some of the astute folks on here would advise Harper to do? What should happen and is it possible to resolve in a non-partisan way? And would all parties agree to what you are suggesting. What about the provinces? Will enough of them agree with your suggestion.
    It’s not enough to condemn Harper – you are now his advisor – give him a workable solution.

    • Ted says:

      Options:

      1. Do what the Liberals did and appoint cronies but also independents AND active members of other parties.

      2. Recognize that the law of the land is the Constitution and if you don’t like it then you try to figure out a way to do something about it or leave it be. Trying to tinker with the Constitution without changing the Constitution sets dangerous precedent and makes a mess of government.

      3. Listen to the people or at least consult with them. In poll after poll, Canadians have shown they want some sort of reform. He has the wind in his back on this problem. But the same polls show we tend not to like his solutions. He has not met with the premiers on these federal government-imposed major changes and I am not aware of him holding a single public meeting or consultation for these top-down major governance changes. It is profoundly undemocratic and dangerous.

      4. Take a chance. And show some courage. If it is important than it is important enough to do correctly and constitutionally. Senate reform does not require a Charlottetown Accord debacle. The Constitution has been amended plenty of times without a national accord or controversy or decade-long congresses with premiers. It requires great focus of attention and energies, great message and communications control, the willingness to be a bit of a bully, detailed planning: all of which are Harper’s strong suits.

      • Pat says:

        On your point 3 – That sounds like a great idea because we all know that the provinces should be involved in federal business. I thought the CPC was all about clearly delineating between federal and provincial jurisdictions – instead they are trying to get the provinces actively involved in making federal decisions.

        An elected senate is a terrible idea – either is gets eradicated or it stays appointed (which doesn’t mean we can’t tweak it a little)…

  11. Philip says:

    Mr. Tulk wrote:
    “The ability to cause gridlock forces compromise”

    I don’t see how, I truly don’t. The very dynamics which would create legislative gridlock would work to prevent the compromise you seek. Another question that springs to mind, how long would gridlock go on before compromise would be attempted, if at all? Gridlock between two powerful legislative bodies and stalled legislation, doesn’t serve Canadians in the least. Unless a non-functional government, on the federal level is the endgame?

  12. Mike Foulds says:

    I’d like to see a national referendum on the question. That would at least inform all the stakeholders in a potential constitutional negotiation.

    • Mandos says:

      Of course, the whole idea is utterly unrepresentative and undemocratic. In the USA, it’s what allows South Dakota to hold the balance of power for things that are of dire priority for states containing the bulk of the US population. People who live in smaller states must accept that they are a minority and are not entitled to any more representation than their numbers warrant.

  13. JH says:

    So no workable solutions yet. And no indications the 2 opposition parties would support one?
    So how is it all Harper’s fault? Seems to me all parties federally and provincially bear an equal burden of responsibility or is just easier to play the partisan blame game?

    • Philip says:

      JH:
      Ted posted this at 8:19 p.m., in reply to your question

      Options:

      1. Do what the Liberals did and appoint cronies but also independents AND active members of other parties.

      2. Recognize that the law of the land is the Constitution and if you don’t like it then you try to figure out a way to do something about it or leave it be. Trying to tinker with the Constitution without changing the Constitution sets dangerous precedent and makes a mess of government.

      3. Listen to the people or at least consult with them. In poll after poll, Canadians have shown they want some sort of reform. He has the wind in his back on this problem. But the same polls show we tend not to like his solutions. He has not met with the premiers on these federal government-imposed major changes and I am not aware of him holding a single public meeting or consultation for these top-down major governance changes. It is profoundly undemocratic and dangerous.

      4. Take a chance. And show some courage. If it is important than it is important enough to do correctly and constitutionally. Senate reform does not require a Charlottetown Accord debacle. The Constitution has been amended plenty of times without a national accord or controversy or decade-long congresses with premiers. It requires great focus of attention and energies, great message and communications control, the willingness to be a bit of a bully, detailed planning: all of which are Harper’s strong suits.

      I think the ball just might be in your court.

      • JH says:

        These are not workable solutions. Neither the opposition parties nor the provinces for the most part like Harper’s ideas and he doesn’t like theirs and he is still the PM. Try to imagine Mr. Chretien in the same situation – you know the answer. Also, no one is going to waste political capital until there is at least a chance of success in reaching a consensus. PMs in the past have not and neither will this one. So no workable solutions. I actually think in this case that the ball is in the Opposition’s and Provincial Premier’s courts.

  14. Lumipallo says:

    Oh good Lord. Could we please stop referring to Bert Brown and Betty Unger as “elected Senators?” All senators in Canada are appointed. Calling Betty Unger “elected” is akin to calling Michelle Bachmann the President-elect of the United States on the strength of her victory in the Ames straw poll.

    • Ted says:

      Exactly.

      Even if you want to take their line of thought on this, in what uniververse was Betty Unger “elected”? Brown won an election. The people of Alberta “chose” him and did not “choose” Unger.

      Only in Harper’s universe does second place get gold, or at least gold plated pensions and expense accounts and salary almost for life. Unger, and how many failed Conservative candidates who were also rejected by the people have now been appointed to the Senate by Harper?

      He loves to set records, Harper does. Not any of them anything to be proud of though.

      Harper All-time Records:
      – biggest spender
      – biggest deficit
      – most broken promises
      – quickest broken promise (first day of office in 2006)
      – largest cabinet
      – largest government (most public employees)
      – largest PMO
      – biggest PMO budget
      – most spent on advertising
      – most spent on polling
      – most prorogations
      – highest rate of prorogation to House sitting days
      – most times shutting down Parliament (prorogation plus snap elections)
      – most times found in contempt of Parliament
      – most violations of the Access to Information Act
      – most motions of closure (ending debate in Parliament)
      – most use of 10%ers
      – biggest user of taxpayer subsidies
      – most appointments of unelected senators
      – most appointments to the bureaucracy
      – most appointments to the senate of failed MP candidates
      – highest percentage of partisan appointments to Senate (100%)
      etc.

      Someone should start a list.

  15. Pat says:

    The best solution would be a mandatory all-party committee for appointing senators – sure, there would be horse trading, but we would at least have a chance at avoiding a blatantly political upper house. I mean, senators right now are just appointed politicians – if all parties had to agree or horse-trade, then the distribution in the upper house would be equal, or the parties would strive to reduce obvious political appointments in order to avoid harm to their party. Actually, the rules could even be written to reduce horse-trading – relying instead on a need for the individual to represent the needs of the region being represented rather than the needs of a political party. For instance, the representative from representing the London-Windsor area could be from a manufacturing background. The rep from the GTA could be more of a finance/ background. Reps from rural areas could be farmers or in agribusiness… sounds simple to me… maybe the Grits should bring that up at their next meeting… It is a politically sell-able policy, that is for sure…

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