This is some of the most backwards logic I’ve seen in a while. Maybe this is just because I have been away for a few days and so my tolerance for crazy has lowered slightly, but in reading this article in the Vancouver Sun in which Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney blames provinces for not holding Senate elections as reason for their recent crony appointments, I feel as though I am back in the deep end of our politics once again.
Here is Kenney’s brilliant logic at work: Alberta holds Senate nominee elections in which conservative Senators are elected as Alberta’s nominees and recommended for Senate appointments once seats become available. This is a sweet deal for any Conservative government in Ottawa because not only can they be seen to be progressive in accepting democratic nominees for the Senate, but those candidates are overwhelmingly conservative (big and little ‘C’) to boot.
So far, so good.
But because Alberta is the only Canadian province to hold Senate nominee elections (which do strike me as a mediocre half-way point on the road towards true Senate reform, but I suppose it counts for something), the federal government of any political stripe is free to appoint people from any other province they choose without fear of reprisal. Because, as Jason Kenney recently argued, if provinces held Senate nominee elections like Alberta, the government would know who to appoint. As Kenney argued on CTV’s Question Period, “[the provinces] can fix this by bringing in provincial elections for senators.”
Absent any constructive suggestions from the provinces (other than Alberta), the feds can and will appoint whomever the hell they want. Up to and including Conservative cabinet ministers and other CPC candidates recently rejected by the Canadian voters in their ridings. And the kicker? That it is not the Tories fault for appointing cronies to the Upper House: it is our fault for not stopping them by insisting upon shill provincial nominee elections!
I mean – my gawd! How can Kenney say this with a straight face?
Now, to be fair, crony, partisan appointments to the Upper House when done by any former Liberal or Conservative government is unfortunate, so this is not a partisan strike against the current crop of Tories. It just so happens that they are the ones not practicing what they have preached in the past. For example, Stephen Harper’s website said, as of 2004 when he was in Opposition, that “the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the Prime Minister.”
But, now in power, it is do as I say, not as I do.
It is this sort of blatant hypocrisy that I think voters find so unpalatable. And likely why so many of us roll our eyes when we hear any government, Conservative or Liberal, speak about Senate reform. Because government after government has demonstrated that the allure of using political power to shape our institutions is simply too strong to resist. This is also likely why former Harper aids and Conservative Premier’s alike are wondering in a very public way how their man in Ottawa seems to have strayed so far off the conservative path.
How is it, in seven short years, did Stephen Harper become that which he so despised in Paul Martin as Prime Minister?
Oh, right. He became Prime Minister.