There are 18 vacancies in the 105-seat Senate and Harper will try to fill as many of those slots as quickly as possible in order to put them out of reach of a Liberal-NDP coalition.
Moves like these make it hard to believe that Harper was one of the original Reform Party Members of Parliament, a Party that had the creation of a Triple E Senate as one of its key principals. Though the Conservatives previously introduced moderate Senate Reform legislation, it died when Harper asked the Governor General to dissolve parliament and call the October 14, 2008 election. The 2008 Conservative election platform (pdf) stated that:
…Stephen Harper believe[s] that the current Senate must be either reformed or abolished. An unelected Senate should not be able to block the will of the elected House in the 21st century.
Principals, promises to Canadians (and to God) aside, it would be an understandable political maneuver on Harper’s part, as Liberal Senate-appointees currently number 58 to the Conservatives’ 20, but it raises some serious questions about what other principals and promises Harper is willing to toss aside in the name of politics. It makes me struggle to see how Harper’s power play politics differ from those of former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, whom some nicknamed the Friendly Dictator.
It’s likely the case that many Canadians didn’t even notice, but provinces with current Senate vacancies include Newfoundland and Labrador (1), New Brunswick (2), Nova Scotia (3), Prince Edward Island (1), Quebec (4), Ontario (2), Yukon (1), Saskatchewan (1), British Columbia (3).
Will Canadians bare witness to a Chretien- or Pierre Trudeau-style series of appointments? Who would find themselves on Stephen Harper’s Christmas Senate wish list? John Reynolds in British Columbia? Michel Fortier or Mario Dumont in Quebec? Doug Finley or Ernie Eves in Ontario? Bernard Lord in New Brunswick? Loyola Hearn in Newfoundland and Labrador? Or will Harper surprise Canadians by appointing a broad range of independent-thinkers with political inclinations?
Or maybe Harper will go super-unconventional and appoint Julie Couillard, Leonard Cohen, Alanis Morissette, Donald Sutherland, and Don Iveson.
In the 21st century, it’s hard to believe that an antiquated 19th century institution such as Canada’s appointed Senate has succeeded in surviving.