Friday, June 01, 2007

Oops

The Conservatives decision to use Senate reform to attack Dion seemed like a bad idea from the start. The strategy looks decidedly more foolish now, as the provinces weigh in, rejecting Harper's Senate bill and by extension adding weight to the Liberal position:
Canada's two largest provinces have waded forcefully into the Senate reform debate, arguing that Prime Minister Stephen Harper must obtain provincial consent to change the upper chamber.

Ontario and Quebec have joined New Brunswick in contending that the Harper government cannot unilaterally tinker with the make-up of the so-called chamber of sober second thought.

And Quebec is going further: Premier Jean Charest wants the federal government to withdraw Bill C-43, aimed at creating a process for electing senators. He also wants the government to suspend work on bill S-4, which would impose an eight-year limit on senatorial terms, until it gets provincial consent.

How about the "west"?:
In a letter to the Senate committee, Saskatchewan Government Relations Minister Harry Van Mulligen says his province "does not support an incremental approach to reforming the Senate and does not support Bill S-4."

B.C.'s intergovernmental relations minister, John van Dongen, says Senate reform is not a high priority for his province, which would rather abolish the Senate than reform it. He says B.C. "does not have strong views on either the substance of the bill or its constitutional implications."

Given the outright rejection of Canada's two most populus provinces, lukewarm response, at best in the "west", who exactly is Harper hoping to sway with this latest round of attack ads? Who does Stephane Dion think he is exactly, standing in the way of a possible unconstitutional reform package, with no support from the provinces? Let the ads run, this dog won't hunt.

10 comments:

Gayle said...

It is starting to look like the liberals will not need to raise a bunch of money for an election campaign. Harper is doing the campaigning for them.

As for your question, some say he is trying to appeal to his base in Alberta - but I think what happened is he miscalculated by thinking this would be another forum where he could portray Dion as weak.

It is a good thing for Dion that the vote on the ATA extensions happened early on in his tenure as leader. That was the best wedge Harper had (not that I agree with Harper on that issue).

That said, how long can the liberals afford to allow Harper to correct himself and come up with sound policy. All these mis-steps will be forgotten in a few months if he is able to pull it together.

Steve V said...

"some say he is trying to appeal to his base in Alberta"

That is probably true Gayle, but the Conservatives are already running at 60% in Alberta, I don't see how this ad, coupled with provincial opinion, does Harper any good at all.

"All these mis-steps will be forgotten in a few months if he is able to pull it together."

I agree, particularly the "lack of policy" compliant. The Conservative drifting is hurting them now, but that will be old news if they come out with a substantial agenda in the fall.

Gayle said...

steve - do not forget that Alberta is the home of the Reform party, and the recent rumblings by some to return to that party. Harper knows full well how that split the right last time - he needs to step in and do something about that.

Senate reform is near and dear to Albertans - well, everyone except me :).

Anonymous said...

Liberals scream everytime Harper appointments a Conservative to a post. Yet we have old Liberal Senators who can sit on their collective butts for 45 years and do nothing and you think it's fine.

Steve V said...

"Yet we have old Liberal Senators who can sit on their collective butts for 45 years and do nothing and you think it's fine."

Personally, I think we scrap it, so I'm not sure who you're talking too. Harper is engaging in some half-assed, piecemeal attempt to do as Gayle points out. It would seem it's more than "liberals" that disagree with Harper, it's actually a shortsighted reform, that will cause more problems than it solves.

knb said...

Yet we have old Liberal Senators who can sit on their collective butts for 45 years and do nothing and you think it's fine.

And LeBreton would be a spring chicken? If you are incensed about the senate being somehow stacked, open your eyes, this bill gives license to that.

Steve, I think getting rid of it would be a huge mistake, especially seeing what we do now in parliament.

What the Senate does is hugely under-rated. All these ill thought out bills, rushed through the House, are being analyzed, in a good way, by both sides.

To agree with you though, Harper chose the wrong issue. I now know why they are so intent on using phrases like, "unelected", "accountable to no-one", "Liberal dominated", blah, blah, blah.

He was setting the mood, (gag, horrible thought). He failed. Foreplay would not be his strong suit.

Steve V said...

"Steve, I think getting rid of it would be a huge mistake, especially seeing what we do now in parliament."

I start with the idea that the only way to truly reform the Senate is through constitutional talks. Given the political minefield that would unleash, I can't really favor opening up that can of worms. The status quo, Harper's tertiary changes aside, enshrines certain inequalities, which allows for a permanent irritant. I don't know what you do, so it leaves scrapping it IMHO.
Having said that, there is a danger in losing the layer of sober second thought.

Anonymous said...

The Harper government does not have the confidence of the Canadian people to start tinkering with our Charter. It's just that simple.
Harper bet on the bob-tailed nag.

Anonymous said...

Just for curiosity reasons, I watched some of the senate committeee meetings - believe me they ask some really pertinent questions and get witnesses from all sides (Harper as you know doesn't allow that-according to hi new manual on how to disrupt committee meetings). The senate does indepth studies - and you know Harper doesn't do that.

At one time I thought maybe we shouldn't bother having a senate, but after watching the committee meetings and looking at the pathetic parliamentarians we have now - we definately need the senate.

Also, Harper does have the option (there are vacancies) to appoint some Conservative senators. He should just do that and even it up a little.

Another angle - may be that a PM has to chose a senator evenly from each party. Just a thought.

Gayle said...

"If you are incensed about the senate being somehow stacked, open your eyes, this bill gives license to that."

KNB - I think anon is incensed the senate is stacked with liberals. If it were stacked with conservatives Harper would not be looking at senate reform.