That weren't no DJ, that was hazy cosmic jive

Senate reform or Reform Senate?

If by reform he meant “Reform,” then Stephen Harper has delivered. But I get the feeling that most people expected that Harper was serious about creating an elected upper house, not on simply stuffing it with his friends – in a manner that exceeds the worst cronyist excesses of Prime Ministers past.

By appointing his 34th partisan friend to the Senate, Harper’s generated a Senate majority for the Conservatives. It’s a majority that he’s conspicuously failed to achieve in the House of Commons, after three elections as party leader. Clearly he’s frustrated that he can’t be officially the boss of the room, so the irony is a bit biting – this erstwhile would-be “populist democrat” is only able to secure his deep-seated dream of political power through the patronage route – not through the route of electoral democracy.

The irony is perfectly reflected in the appointment itself. Our new Tory senator, Salma Ataullahjan, is a failed Tory candidate for MP. The view seems to be: what you can’t win through elections, you secure through patronage.

With that in mind, how open do you think Harper can really be to the concept of elected Senators? More democracy does not seem to generate more Conservatives.

Ah, but these were the days!

“Despite the fine work of many individual senators, the Upper House remains a dumping ground for the favoured cronies of the prime minister.” — Harper leadership website, Jan. 15, 2004.

“Stephen Harper will cease patronage appointments to the Senate. Only candidates elected by the people will be named to the Upper House.” — Harper leadership website, Jan. 15, 2004.

“Canadians . . . are ashamed the prime minister continues the disgraceful, undemocratic appointment of undemocratic Liberals to the undemocratic Senate to pass all too often undemocratic legislation.” — Stephen Harper, House of Commons, March 7, 1996.

Ah, youth! Ah, idealism! Ah, duplicity and a corrupting lust for absolute power!

Harper’s newly-friendly Senate met, obviously and by no coincidence, just in time to pass horrific legislation. The passage of last weekend’s omnibus “budget bill,” stuffed with unrelated poison pills that hadn’t passed in the democratic chamber but were added to this confidence motion, was obscene – not only a violation of any straight-faced concept of democratic accountability, but more galling, a violation of quite precise promises made by Team Harper thoughout his political life. Promises that got him elected in the first place (if barely).

A big question to me is why conservative voters aren’t putting more heat on the government that they elected to deliver these promises. Aren’t they disappointed? Didn’t they feel such reforms were really important, and they thought Harper would bring them into being?

There appears to be a real preference among too many conservatives to continue indulging in pitifully obsessive, collective attack-doggism against the Liberal Party – as though the Liberals continue to maintain a dark, shadowy control over the real levers of government. They do it through the civil service, and they do it through the CBC. They do it through sorcery and they do it through hypnosis. It’s a comic paranoia that’s not a million miles off from My Uncle Napoleon.

As if Harper hasn’t been in power for a full four years, with more than enough time to be in a position to now take responsibility for what government has failed to do. What relevance “adscam” in 2010? None – but it’s an easier subject for the Right to grapple with, I suppose, than trying to digest the complex fact that their Reform-a-Tory leadership are effectively “out-Liberalling the Liberals” when it comes to crude arrogance, cronyism, and an aloof disregard for promises broken.

Filed under: Canada, Politics, , , , ,

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