Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mr. Harper's 34th Not "Triple E" Senator

On Friday, the PMO announced that Stephen Harper had filled the last vacant Senate seat by appointing Salma Ataullahjan as Senator for the Province of Ontario. According to the press release from the PMO, Ms. Ataullahjan has subscribed to the boilerplate agreement which states that:

"She has also pledged to support the Government in its efforts to make the Senate more democratic and accountable, including legislation to limit Senate tenure and to allow provinces to elect their Senators."

Mr. Harper has now basically taken control of the Senate which appeared poised last week to make changes to the controversial omnibus Bill C-9 which is about to be voted on in the red chamber. As it stands now, that is much less likely to happen. Very clever Mr. Harper, very clever indeed. It's always reassuring to know that you have the best interests of Canadians at heart.

Yes Mr. Harper, we know, you really want that Triple E (equal, elected and effective) Senate from back in the good old days when you were the chief policy director for the Reform Party. You say it time after time and year after year but, after nearly 4 and a half years in power, you never really seem to do anything about it with the exception of appointing 34 Senators. Yes, we know that it takes constitutional reform to change the Senate but at least make some symbolic movement in that direction if that is your intention and your conviction.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Ms. Ataullahjan other than the fact that she was a failed Conservative Party candidate in the riding of Mississauga - Brampton South in the 2008 federal election where she lost by nearly 7000 votes out of 44,000 votes cast to Liberal MP Navdeep Bains. She is a realtor and has a diploma in computer operations. She has been a good donor to the CPC having donated $720 in 2008 along with $500 toward her own campaign in 2008. Apparently, she is an effective spokesperson for the Pakistani community in Ontario and she has "earned her reputation as one who both stands against violence and stands for peaceful dialogue and consensus building." (a quote from the PMO's press release). After all, we know that the Conservatives are all about peaceful dialogue and consensus building, don't we John Baird?

What I do have against this appointment is what I've had against all of Mr. Harper's Senate appointments - they are appointments! This is a man who spent much of his time as President of the National Citizen's Coalition (NCC) railing against the use of the Senate as a perquisite for Prime Ministerial pals. In fact, here's a quote from Mr. Harper back in 1997 when he was Vice President of the NCC. He gave this speech in Montreal back in 1997 as Vice President of the National Citizen's Coalition to the the Council for National Policy, a right-wing American think tank:

"...Of our two Legislative houses, the Senate, our upper house, is appointed, also by the Prime Minister, where he puts buddies, fundraisers and the like. So the Senate is also not very important in our political system."

Apparently, life does imitate speeches! But regrettably, he is right, the Senate can't be all that important considering who was selected by Mr. Harper as one of the Senators representing Atlantic Canada.

I guess if it's consistency Canadians are looking for in their politicians, our current Prime Minister gets a failing grade. Maybe even a triple "F".

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