04.25.2014 10:38 AM

The Supremes and the Senators: Weston called it, and calls it

Another fine Weston analysis, save and except his reliance on a Justin Trudeau advisor (without identifying him as such).  Bottom line: a referendum is seemingly the only way to circumvent ten ransom-seeking Premiers.

It’s do-able, I think.  The question, however, is this: is the Senate the hill Harper wants to die on? Or can he craft a big win out of it?

I honestly don’t know what he’ll do.  But my suspicion is, if he pushes for a national referendum on abolishing the Senate, he’d win.  Hell, Mulcair already agrees with him, and Trudeau likely would, too.

Interesting times ahead.  Or, not.



  1. sezme says:

    But if all three leaders agree on a referendum, how does that give Harper and advantage?

    • Warren says:

      I’m not saying it’s good strategy. I’m just saying it’s all he seems to have left.

      • Matt says:

        You really think Trudeau would support reform now given his past comments?

        Let’s say Harper does put the Senate question to the people via referendum and “wins”. Then what?

        Will he still need 7 provinces to agree? Would the results of the referendum be used to try and get those provincial governments who are resisting change to give in?

        Does a referendum “win” allow Harper to ignore this SCC decision?

        • Jason says:

          The decision says he needs all 10 to agree to abolish. I don’t see how that can happen. Especially given Cuillard’s policy of bringing Quebec’s traditional demands to any constitutional talks.

          • Matt says:

            For abolition he needs all the provinces.

            For reform like elected and term limits he needs 7 provinces making up 50% of the population, which could be done without Quebec.

    • Just askin' says:

      …because Harper would be responsible for brokering the agreement. Not sure what’s confusing about that concept.

  2. Coelocanth_Jones says:

    The fact that Mulcair’s always been game for abolition should mean that a successful referendum should be seen as a win for Harper.

  3. de Adder says:

    I don’t think the Atlantic premiers would feel a need to bend to the will of a national referendum. We don’t care what people from Upper Canada think. And we have the most to lose if a Senate was abolished. The Atlantic Provinces hit above their weight in the Senate. Good luck with your little referendum. The arse is going to come out of it on the East Coast.

    • Michael says:

      Why does “hitting above their weight” have to end? In the US there are 2 senators per state. So North Dakota, with a population of less than a million gets two senators, just like Texas with a population of over 26 million.

  4. Ty says:

    Premiers of Alberta and BC will have a say no matter what, unless PMSH wants to hold two referendums.


  5. Al in Cranbrook says:

    Speaking as past Reform/Manning supporter…

    The one thing Harper can imply, and with which a great many westerners will agree, is that he gave it his best shot, the usual suspects fought him every step of the way, and ultimately “the system” torpedoed even the most modest senate reforms.

    A national referendum is fraught with perils, primarily in that it will stoke old divisions, not the least of which will be Quebec’s incessant insecurities.

    And I don’t think it solves anything constitutionally. At the end of the day, according to what I can gather from this SC ruling, it still needs the prescribed approval of provincial governments.

    I wouldn’t blame him in the least for throwing his hands in the air, saying screw it, and walking away from the entire matter. Arguably, just ain’t worth the endless grief…especially the prospect of opening the proverbial door just a crack for a Constitution for amendments, through which there will be no end of special interest groups wanting to jam their foot into.

    • que sera sera says:

      I suspect Harper warrants the same response that Nixon (post-Watergate) received: Thanks for the offer of your assistance, sir, but you’ve already done quite enough.

    • Michael says:

      If this is his “best shot”, I would hate to see what doing nothing entails.

    • Gayle says:

      The “usual suspects” being the law of the land?

      I get that is what Harper will do, and it will play to his base who do not educate themselves on the law, and the constitution, and only want what they want and barring that, want someone they can blame.

      The TRUTH is that this was never going to fly, and Harper just spent millions of tax dollars ignoring people who knew it would not fly in order to cater to people like you. That may satisfy you, but it strikes me as a colossal waste of my money. Not that he will care, because he has managed to raise money for his party using this as a fundraising tool, and people like you still think he did something good for the country.

      • que sera sera says:

        How pathetic is Harper pretending to orchestrate constitutional Senate reform built upon the non-existent decade old relationship he’s failed to cultivate between the feds & Canada’s provinces/territories. More cognitive dissonance brought to you by Harper and the illiterati in charge of long term planning in the PMO.

        Yes it is a colossal waste of the tax dollars it takes, daily, to feed this government vested only in eating its young.

  6. JH says:

    Gotta admit – Harper’s having a pretty good run. Polls, NYT piece and now this. He calls a referendum and wins (with progressives support) and then it’s all on the premiers, like WK says. Then he just sits back and lets things play out, claiming he’d done his best, but provincial leaders are blocking him.
    That makes it a win/win in the next campaign whatever happens.
    Trudeau and Mulcair are going to have to find some new strategies fast and perhaps reconsider a coalition again. WK’s contention that that’s the only way progressives win, is looking better all the time.

  7. doconnor says:

    He would have to get a majority in each Province, not just across Canada, to get every Province to feel compelled to support it. Will it fly in PEI?

    Having the three largest parties support it didn’t work out for the Charlotte Town Accord referendum.

  8. m5slib says:

    I don’t see why Harper would go to a referendum. I think he just did this to say he tried. If a referendum ocurred, Justin can put his Cpt. Canada hat on and wax ad infinitum about national unity.

  9. Swervin' Merv says:

    This is a lose/lose for Harper. It reminds Canadians that Harper has never recognized the legitimate role of provinces in the federation. And he loses any remaining remnant of credibility when he again starts to fill the open Senate seats, expected to total 15 by year end, with more loyalists for the Conservative caucus.

    • Matt says:

      I would suspect after the last year of Senate headaches and as long as the Conservatives still have a majority in the Senate with them empty, those seats may stay vacant for a while.

      If it looks like the CPC are going to lose the 2015 election he may rush to fill them before that happens.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      How the hell do you arrive at that???

      It’s Harper whose been after the provinces to elect their own senators since day one! It’s Harper whom has gone out of his way like no PM in living memory to stay out of provincial jurisdictional matters as per the constitution! Particularly regarding healthcare. You think just because he won’t attend conferences with the premiers so they can grandstand for the cameras until hell can’t take any more, blaming everything they can think of Ottawa, all the while with their hands out looking for money, this somehow means Harper doesn’t recognize provincial legitimacy?

      Of course he will continue to appoint senators, he now clearly has no choice! Of course he will appoint Conservatives! You think a Liberal PM wouldn’t do exactly the same??? Seriously??? In a heartbeat they would! And so would an NDP PM!

    • TrueNorthist says:

      PM Harper appeared calm, even affable when responding to the decision today and I think I understand why. It is most certainly not a lose/lose, nor even a win/lose or a lose/win. It is in fact a win/win. The senate issue was a thorn for the PM until today. Now it is a plum. Combine that with today’s polling results and I’d say things are looking rather good for the gov’t.

  10. mike says:

    A referendum holds no legal weight. Waste. Of. Time. Quebec & the eastern provinces will never agree to abolition.

    Let it go anti-senate people.

  11. Ottlib says:

    So he has a referendum, with the support of the other Federal parties, and it passes. Then what?

    The SCC just said he cannot change or abolish the Senate without opening up the Constitution. Does anybody think that any negotiation to do either would not become a big Christmas Tree that Quebec, the First Nations and others might decide to hang stuff on? Particularly since such an opportunity would probably not come along again for decades.

    Suddenly, a potential deal to change/abolish the Senate, that most people would agree to becomes something much more and the process to get that deal would not be pretty.

    One of the reasons why the last federal government of Conservative leanings lost an election in a big way was because of it somewhat casually opening up the Constitution, and subsequent to that we almost lost the country. I am certain that Stephen Harper is very aware of that, or at least I hope so.

  12. Ryan Spinney says:

    Actually Quebec would agree in exchange for a few concessions like distinct society. Coulliard has already said this. The rest have thier price.

    The way to do it is to make side deals with each province, constitutional amendments that involve a single province only only require that it gets passed in the provincal lesgilature and in Parliament. In exchange for these deals the Premiers support abolishing the senate. Back it up into pieces and this is totally doable.

  13. mike says:

    And if other provinces do not like the side deals being offered other provinces then they will not sign off on changing or abolishing the senate.

    It is over…the Senate will not be changing in our lifetime. Or our children’s lifetime.

  14. Sezme says:

    All this talk about Senate reform or abolition sure is wearying. Especially when you add in constitutional negotiations and referenda. Remember when these things were a slam dunk for Mulroney? Remember how they ended up killing his career and almost killing Canada? Can’t we just implement better expense account regulations and then go back to ignoring the Senate like we used to?

  15. Kev says:

    Has Harper sent out a fundraising letter about the obstructionist judges yet?

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