Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed five more Conservatives to the Senate, giving the Conservatives a slim lead over the Liberals in the Senate. The Conservatives now have 51 Senate seats and the Liberals 49. The balance of power in the Senate will actually be held by the Independent Senators. Although the Prime Minister once said he would never appoint Senators, these appointments bring the total of his Senate appointments to 33.
Mr. Harper has been a proponent of Senate reform since he was an early Reform Party organizer, although it has become clear it's not an easy task. Once Parliament returns from prorogation, the government is expected to introduce bills that would try again to impose eight-year term limits on Senators, who can currently sit until the age of 75, and set up a system in which Senators would be elected in provincial votes. Electing Senators provincially would require the agreement of the provinces, and that is by no means automatic. There are serious constraints on how much the federal government can do unilaterally to implement major Senate reform, as The Globe and Mail's Jeffrey Simpson explains.
Tough on Crime Agenda
The Prime Minister also says the new Senators will help him further his agenda of getting tough on crime. In his press release announcing the Senate appointments he said "...the opposition have abused their Senate majority by obstructing and eviscerating law and order measures that are urgently needed and strongly supported by Canadians." This statement has more to do with political rhetoric than reality though.
New Conservative Senators
The new Senate appointees are:
- Pierre Hugues Boisvenu, Quebec - victim's rights advocate and the founding President of the Murdered or Missing Persons' Families' Association, which he founded after his daughter was murdered in 2002.
- Bob Runciman, Ontario - long-time Progressive Conservative MPP, former cabinet minister in the Mike Harris and Ernie Eves governments and interim PC party leader after John Tory's defeat. An outspoken advocate of Senate reform.
- Vim Kochhar, Ontario - CEO of the Vimal Group of Companies, handling project management of major hotels around the world. Also the creator of the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons.
- Beth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador - Progressive Conservative MHA. Auditor General of the province before entering provincial politics. A longtime Harper supporter.
- Rose-May Poirier, New Brunswick - Progressive Conservative MLA and former cabinet minister.
Regardless of the optics of the appointments, these five new Senators are good additions to the Red Chamber. Three have extensive legislative experience at the provincial level, and hopefully all will get a chance to add more than just a political spin to the committee work and debates in the Senate.