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The Senate’s inconvenient history

The spectacle that has become the Senate of Canada is something to behold, as Stephen Harper gets further caught up in the mess.

What better moment to review why Canada has this corrupted institution in the first place? And what better source than the country’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.

"We must protect the rights of minorities, and the rich are always fewer in number than the poor."

Macdonald offered up this gem of an argument for an appointed Senate for the landed class back in 1864. He was at the Quebec Conference to discuss Canadian Confederation and the construction of the Senate.

So how do you make sure the rich have a check on the commoners? Insist on a property requirement. They settled on owning land valued at $4,000. That’s peanuts today, but it was a chunk of change back then. You can be sure labourers on the farm wouldn’t qualify.

The current debate swirling around allowable housing claims raises serious questions of abuse and a sense of entitlement. The original motivation for the property requirement, though, wasn’t just to prove residency in a province, but to ensure an upper chamber of a propertied class, modeled on Britain's landed aristocracy. 

Canada didn’t have a proper tradition of hereditary aristocracy to stuff into an upper chamber, so we settled on a compromise for an appointed Senate of those who owned property, and allocated to provinces according to a fixed formula, set out in the Constitutional Act of 1867.

And here we are today.

If you think Canada needs to take a second look at the unelected Senate, click here or on the image below to share it on Facebook:

Sir John A Macdonald

Have there been pipeline incidents in your hood?


Stephen Harper's evolving Senate talking points: the Monday edition

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took to the airwaves Monday to try and get this pesky Senate story under control.

He settled on appearing on Maritime Morning with Jodi Morgan, a friendly voice on the other end of the line. Morgan ran for the Canadian Alliance back in 2000, and went on to work for Harper. 

After getting the fluff questions about jobs, the economy, and trade out of the way – per the agreement with the PMO – Morgan got down to asking Harper what everybody wants to know.

What responsibility should Harper’s office take for this “unholy mess” in the Senate? 

“Well, look, I think the responsibility, whenever things go wrong, is for us to take appropriate action,” said Harper.

After talking about how he "dismissed" his Chief of Staff for cutting a cheque to Mike Duffy to repay the senator's dubious expenses (after expressing "regret" back in May in accepting his resignation), Harper played the I'm-taking-strong-action card. (Harper didn’t get into his evolving story about the cheque - from how “nobody” knew about the cheque to “very few” knew.)   

“When you have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars in inappropriate expenses, and that is clear, that there is appropriate sanction on your job. If you did that in private life, you would not be continuing to be paid by your employer,” Harper said.

Funny. That’s not what Harper said a few months back, when he stood in the House of Commons to defend Pamela Wallin's expense claims:


Photo: primeministergr. Used under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 licence.

Time for another anti-CBC petition?

The latest parody by CBC’s This Hour has 22 Minutes could land the broadcaster in trouble again. Perhaps it'll kick-start another petition tabled by a Conservative MP in the House of Commons calling for the federal government to yank its funding. Check it out:

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About that Russell Brand interview...