Harper versus Harper: the Senate edition

It’s Senate week at the Supreme Court of Canada. The judges are hearing arguments about Senate reform and how Canada could go about getting rid of the whole thing.

After seven years in power, the Conservative government kick started the process earlier this year, when it sent reference questions to the top court, just as the Senate spending scandal was about to heat up.

What better time to review what Stephen Harper has had to say about the upper chamber over the years -- and what he has done since becoming Prime Minister.

 

1993


That was then: "I don’t think they really stand for any kind of viewpoint, other than the viewpoint of die-hard appointed hacks representing the incompetent former government." (18 November, 1993)

This is now: Speaking of die-hard appointed hacks, Harper has appointed his fair share of party bagmen, former staffers and failed candidates to the Senate. They include Irving Gerstein, Carolyn Stewart Olsen and Larry Smith.

 

 

2004


That was then: "I will not name appointed people to the Senate. Anyone who sits in the Parliament of Canada must be elected by the people they represent." (14 March, 2004)

This is now: Harper has made 59 appointments to the Senate since 2006.

 

 

2005


That was then: "An appointed Senate is a relic of the 19th century." (15 December, 2005)

This is now: Still true in 2013.

 

 

2006

That was then: "Cabinet positions should only be filled from the ranks of elected parliamentarians." (12 January, 2006)

This is now: Harper named Senator Marjory Lebreton to his Cabinet in 2006. Lebreton, a party hack appointed to the Senate back in 1993 by Brian Mulroney before he was swept out of power, stepped down from Cabinet this past July, one day after she was interviewed by the RCMP about the ongoing Senate scandal. Harper's appointment of Michael Fortier to the Senate after the 2006 election for the sole purpose of appointing him to Cabinet was even more egregious. Fortier ran Harper’s leadership campaign for the new Conservative Party in 2003 and served as co-chair of the national campaign in 2006. Prior to the 2008 election, Fortier resigned from the Senate to run for a Quebec seat in the House of Commons. He lost.



Harper

That was then: “I remain convinced the country deserves a reformed Senate, and an elected Senate for that matter, but the country needs the Senate to change, and if the Senate cannot be reformed, I think most Canadians will eventually conclude that it should be abolished.” (17 October, 2007)

This is now: It’s probably fair to say most Canadians have come to this conclusion, after the spectacle that has become the Canadian Senate. We can all thank Harper’s own appointees and the shaddy behaviour of the Prime Minister's Office in managing the scandal for this. After all, it's not the 19th century anymore.