“As one Canadian political scientist I know likes to say, when we look at Australia, we suffer from ‘Senate envy,' ” Mr. Harper told Australian senators and members of Parliament, to their great amusement, in the opening lines of his speech this morning.
“In Canada, senators remain appointed, not elected. They don't have to retire until age 75, and may warm their seats for as long as 45 years. By the nature of the system, they're not accountable to voters.”
Please Mr. Harper, STFU! If you wish to reform the Senate, I suggest you begin by putting forward a proposal that doesn't royally screw up the balance of power and responsibility in our government's houses, and doesn't emulate the system of perpetual conflict that we see in Washington.
In the meantime, you might gain some traction at home by demonstrating a degree of respect for your colleagues in both houses of Parliament.
Of course, Harper's contempt for anything other than toadying sycophants has been demonstrated repeatedly - during the last election, and now in his international stage sniping at his colleagues in Canada's parliament. This is not a man who is ready to reform anything - he has neither the breadth or depth of vision to see beyond his own blinding ideology.
It is unusual for world leaders to wade into domestic squabbles when they have been given an international podium. But Mr. Harper regularly criticizes his opposition while abroad, and the Senate is one of his favourite targets.
Liberal senators, who hold a majority in the chamber, decided not to vote on a bill that calls for eight-year limits on Senate terms until its constitutionality had been tested in the courts.
But that bill and another that would create a process for electing senators were killed by Mr. Harper's decision to prorogue Parliament.
Take note here - Harper's pending bills WERE NOT killed by the Senate - they were killed BY MR. HARPER'S DECISION to prorogue parliament.
When the Con$ start braying about how the bad old Senate killed their legislation, remember to slap them around with that little fact.
A few people are speculating that Harper may move to eliminate the Canadian Senate if he can't have his way with it.
It should be noted that doing so would be an extremely complicated thing to do, as the existence of the Senate is written into the core of the Canadian Constitution.
In fact, any legislative changes to the role and structure of the Senate would ultimately be bounded by the roles and responsibilities set forth in the Constitution of this nation. I doubt that Canadians as a whole have much appetite for another Con$ervative Prime Minister attempting to monkey with that document. (anybody else remember the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords?)
So far anything Harper has done to effect "democratic reform" has ultimately been little more than poorly disguised window dressing.