Senate Reform: Bert Brown apologizes/explains
Bert Brown spent a large part of the 1980s and 1990s, ploughing Es into his field to advocate for Senate reform. Now he's a bona fide senator and he's finding, hey, Senate reform isn't as easy as you think!
Minutes ago, Senator Brown issued the statement below to explain why his benefactor, Prime Minister Harper, has had to, uh, reverse himself on all that Senate-reform talk of old. Put simply, it's the fault of a) the provinces b) the Liberals c) the opposition as a whole d) that damn coalition last year.
The important thing to know, though, is that it's not Harper's fault. Well done, Bert! You've earned your salary today.
Statement from Hon. BERT BROWN, Senator (AB)
OTTAWA - In lieu of speculation in recent media about upcoming Senate appointments, Canada's only elected Senator, Bert Brown, today issued the following statement:
Having spent over 26 years fighting for Senate reform and having had many frank discussions with Prime Minister Harper on the subject, I wish to clarify a few misconceptions about why Senate seats are being filled.
You will recall that Prime Minister Harper began his mandate by working for two years on reform of the Senate without making any patronage appointments. From 2006 to 2008 he gave the Provinces & Territories a time-limited opportunity to introduce legislation (or so called Senatorial Selection Acts) to elect their Senators democratically.
In 2008, I travelled on behalf of the Prime Minister to deliver that message personally to every Premier`s office in every Province and Territory in Canada. This was my third national trip related to Senate reform but my first on behalf of a Prime Minister who was serious about and committed to real reform.
Many of the Provinces and Territories were interested in our
proposal and in bringing democratic choice to Canadians.
When the Prime Minister appointed eighteen Senators last year, he did so for two main reasons. The first is the Senate had become dysfunctional as a result of the political imbalance in the chamber. With 58 Liberal Senators and only 20 Conservatives (that`s close to three-to-one) the functions of the Senate and its various committees was becoming logistically impossible.
The second reason was the threat of the coalition. The notion that the opposition could have continued to stack the Senate with its own loyalists pushing the ratio of Liberals to Conservatives to four-to-one was unacceptable, not to mention the prospect of having Separatists sitting in the Senate. If the coalition had succeeded, we knew that the opposition would have quickly filled the existing vacancies.
Its important to point out that in a minority government scenario, the support of two opposition parties is required to pass legislation. The NDP is against any progressive reform of the Senate and wishes it abolished, the Bloq does not believe in reform, and the Liberals consider the Senate a place of sinecure and reward for their loyalists in other words, the other parties do not support change. This is all to say that the Prime Minister simply cannot pass real reform measures through the House of Commons: he simply doesnt have the votes there to make it happen.
This brings me to my final, perhaps most important point. Within less than a year Canadians will finally see a Conservative majority in the Senate. This will be the first real opportunity, in over 140 years, for elected Senate legislation to be introduced in our Parliament and passed. Since all new Senators are required to support our reform measures, and with a majority who believe in and support real reform, we will finally have the votes to make it happen.