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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The first of criminal charges against Liberal Senators announced today

Prince Bonehead Justin Trudeau booted all of the Liberal Senators out of caucus, claiming it was to restore independence and remove partisanship from the upper chamber. But the move was entirely symbolic and unconvincing, as the Liberal Senators have elected a leader and insist they will effectively continue to work together as Liberal caucus in Canada's Senate.

The actual reason for Trudeau's move was a transparent attempt to distance himself and his party from criminal charges against his party's patronage appointments which were widely expected to follow the release of an Auditor General's report.

The first of those commenced today when along with former Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, former Liberal Senator Herb Mac were charged with fraud and breach of trust.


Skippy Stalin said...

I may be mistaken, but didn't Mac resign from the Senate? And Brazeau has already been chariged with all manner of rapery and broad-beatery, hasn't he?

While I'm usually the last one to cast stones because I'm the most awesome Christian of all, I get the feeling that at least two more "former" Conservative senators will be charged in the next few months, maybe more.

Harper wants these tools elected, which raises an interesting question.

Most senators under any election plan would get more votes than the prime minister in a general election, or a party leader at a convention.

Under what authority then could an elected senator be removed from caucus, or the bod itself? Or is "democracy" something that should only be applied to Rob Ford?

Richard K said...

Mac did resign from the Senate prior to charges being laid, but the charges are for what he did as a Liberal Senator, not what he did since.

I'd assume that an elected Senator could be removed from caucus the same way a sitting MP could, as in the case of Helena Guergis. As for being booted from the Senate itself, rules that apply to MPs would work.

Skippy Stalin said...

It's an intereting quesntion, and it's the heart of my opposition to an elected Senate.

Helena Guergis faced an electorate roughly the same size as everyone else in the Commons, but that wouldn't be true of a Senator, who might be elected province wide.

A given prime minister is elected by something like 15,000 votes in his riding and a few thousand at a leadership convention. On the other hand, an Ontario senator could theoretically be elected by over a million.

If populist democratic legitimacy is your thing, and it appears to be, given your positions on Ford, by what right would a prime minister remove a senator who received far broader and greater democratic support?

Moreover, the prime minister's authority rests on the confidence of the House. The Constitution says nothing about the Senate in that regard.

Here's another thought. If elected senators are supposed to represent their provinces, it follows that their elections should be controlled by the provincial, rather than the federal governments, which would further weaken the hold of the federal parties on them. For example, Mitch McConnell is nominated by the Republican Party of Kentucky, not the Republican National Committee.

Richard K said...

To be honest, I haven't examined the details of what would be required for an elected senate very carefully, since I doubt it will happen on a national scale any time soon and elected or not, it won't affect their very limited powers, which in real terms isn't a lot more than to kill legislation.

I think you misunderstand my concept of democratic populism, but in any case your application of numbers is a bit odd. A PM may only get whatever votes he or she does in one riding, but assuming they go into a national election as party leader, people voting in a country governed by a Westminster system like ours understand (or should if schools are doing their job, which is another issue...)that the local vote is also a national one.

I'm not crazy about the way things work myself and like the idea of separating our executive and legislative branches, but it is democratic. Though far from perfect, it's still a hell of a lot better than than proportional representation, where the political parties rather than the public determine who sits in the legislature.

Your idea of who would control the (hypothetical) Canadian Senate elections is interesting - I don't see any reason why what you suggest there couldn't work, other than that the Feds are unlikely to want to give away the kind of control they have. Since a lot of this will probably require some reworking of the Constitution, it would have to be hammered out by the feds and the provinces, but given the ease with which constitutional reform happens in Canada, I'm not expecting to see it before we get flying cars.