Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In defence of $85 million a year wasted

Anyone still resisting the now conventional view that the Liberal Party is without even a tangential relationship with the Canadian political zeitgeist, witness Exhibit A.

At a time when disengagement with our political institutions is at an all time low;
When Canadians are worried about their own job security;
And when a whiff of excess in public spending lights up talk radio call lines and exhausts gallons of ink in opinion pages …

This is the time Canada’s Natural Groveling Party has decided to waste precious bandwidth on the spectacular hope that Canadians could be convinced to see this undemocratic, unelected, unaccountable blot as something other than what it is.

In what other-worldy Tim Hortons can Canadians be heard resolving a problem by declaring “I’m going to call my Senator!” When was the last time anyone “friended” a Senator on Facebook? When has anyone other than Liberal and Tory political hacks seen the Senate as something other than an $85 million-a-year drain on the public purse and snoring-punctuated white-noise in our country’s debates?

It doesn’t happen. But Liberal MPs with no sense of where to go next are convinced that Canadians are crying out to hear more from the 57 Liberal Senators who collect $130,400 while sitting on corporate boards and charging private clients for more hours than there are in a day.

If this website is any indication, today's Liberal Party has figured out what it stands for:

Oh, and isn’t it uncanny how much the Liberal Senate site resembles this, far more credible Senate tribute site?

1 comment:

Malcolm+ said...

The Senate is a festering pustule on the arse end of Canadian democracy.

That said, the Charlottetown precedent (any major constitutional amendment effectively requires approval in a national referendum) means that meaningful Senate reform is impossible. It is simply not realistic to expect the federal government and all ten provincial governments ever to agree on a reform proposal.

Abolition is the only reform that could possibly carry the day. Even that is getting to be a long shot as phony reform advocates would oppose abolition, prefering the present abomination continue while they wait to realize their pipe dreams.

In the meantime, the Senate is there, and it still has considerable notional power. The NDP's principled refusal to accept Senate appointments has not managed to make a dent in public opinion. (And even that principled position has been dodged, as when CCF-NDP stalwart Therese Casgrain accepted a summons to the Senate where she sat as an independent.)

Jack Layton and those around him missed an opportunity when Paul Martin had Adrienne Clarkson summon Saskatoon academic Lilliam Dyck to the Senate in 2005.

The Martin Liberals clearly expected that Dr. Dyck would choose to sit as a Liberal. To the surprise of nearly everyone, especially the NDP, she indicated she intended to sit as a New Democrat. (She now lists her affiliation as Independent New Democrat.)

There is no reason to presume that Senator Dyck was trying to subvert NDP policy and practice. Frankly, outside of NDP activists, how many people would have known that the NDP, by custom, does not accept Senate appointments?

Rather than assuming that Senator Dyck was party to some Liberal scheme, Jack might have talked with her on the phone before sending attack dog Karl Belanger out to embarrass himself in front of reporters. Think of the media hit we COULD have gotten if any of Jack's staff had a clue about how to operate a cel phone.

A joint news conference with Jack Layton and Lillian Dyck. Jack announces that, out of respect for NDP practice, Senator Dyck will sit as an Independent New Democrat, but that the party will work with her to advance our shared values.

And we will help her to prepare her first piece of legislation - a bill to initiate the necessary constitutional amendment to abolish the Senate.

Talk about a missed opportunity.

Indeed, I think any New Democrat offered a Senate sinecure should leap at the chance to join Lillian Dyck as an Independent New Democrat.

Can you imagine the fun we could have if, every session of Parliament, there is a Senate abolition bill before the Senate?