Saturday, January 10, 2009

New BC Conservative Senators are Tory hacks - like all the others appointed by Stephen Harper to the pork barrel

Bill Tieleman’s 24 Hours Column

Tuesday January 6, 2009

The scoop behind B.C.'s new senators


I do not believe it is consistent with the true notion of popular Government that we should have a Senate selected by the Administration of the day, and holding their seats for life.

- Liberal leader Edward Blake, 1874

Once upon a time, a young Reform member of parliament eagerly campaigned for a Senate that was "equal, effective and elected."

Today, that MP is Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Christmas-time appointment of 18 new Conservative senators shows why the unelected upper house has survived for 141 years without any change.

Simply put, the Senate fulfills the patronage and political needs of the government. And despite Harper claiming he wants a triple-E Senate, it remains a partisan pork barrel.

B.C.'s three new senators are no exception - Nancy Greene Raine, Richard Neufeld and Yonah Martin are tried and true Tories who will toe the Conservative line.

They join former Conservative MPs, party fundraisers and staff - new senators who will vote Harper all the way.

Martin is the New Westminster-Coquitlam Conservative candidate in the October federal election who lost but turned out the big winner. That's because the 43-year-old teacher can collect her senator's pay of $130,400 a year - indexed to inflation - for up to 32 years!

Former 1968 Olympic gold medal skier Greene Raine has a long track record of supporting the original Reform Party, its Canadian Alliance successor and now the Conservatives. Greene Raine and her husband Al Raine endorsed Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo Conservative MP Cathy McLeod in the last election and previously donated $1,000 to former MP Betty Hinton.

Greene Raine was a card-carrying Reform member and Al Raine donated another $500 to Herb Grubel, the ex-Reform MP who is now a senior fellow at the right-wing Fraser Institute.

Neufeld, the B.C. Liberal energy minister whose claim to fame is privatizing BC Hydro and pushing for offshore oil and gas exploration, is a former Reform B.C. MLA who was a player in the "unite the right" movement that led to the merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Progressive Conservative Party.

None of this partisan politicking excuses the shameful use of the Senate as a patronage pool by the federal Liberals, who still hold the majority of seats there.

But the reality is that Harper had choices. Harper could have left the seats vacant, he could have told the provinces with vacancies that they would only be filled through elections - as Alberta has done and Saskatchewan intends, or he could have struck an all-party committee to nominate worthy candidates supported unanimously instead of partisan hacks.

Ultimately, Harper is no better than any other prime minister who has used the Senate to reward party faithful and advance government interests.



Anonymous said...

I've always thought a Senator Asper or a Senator Skulsky sounds nice.

Do you or your readers have any suggestions for a future Senators Waiting List?


Anonymous said...

It was really special to see Skulsky at his going away party arm in arm with El Gordo. And we all thought the mainstream press was unbiased.

Anonymous said...

One of the new ones is having a few problems. He has now left his other job working for some Indian associaition, where it was 107,000 a year tax free as without doubt the office was on a reserve. Some harassment issues . The guy claims he wants to devote all his time to being a senator. Nice work if work is the operative work for a number of those guys and gals. The perks are pretty sweat as well. Sam Sullivan will have to wait for next time.

Westcoast Indie News said...

Yes, one might think the Harper government might have done a bit better job of vetting candidates, but hey, they were in a hurry, what with the possibility of getting thrown out as the government & all.

Patrick Brazeau, national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples
is in a bit of hot water over quite a few things. Some interesting comments on the CBC story.

I think it is personally disappointing for Aboriginal people that this guy might have behaved in a substandard way. There are so many qualified, exceptional and suitable Aboriginal leaders who would be a credit to all Canadians if appointed to the Senate. But because he was a neoConservative & Harper drone he gets the gig.

In think in general it brings up some questions about what vetting process happens for Senate candidates? He can't be the first, nor will he be the last to have been involved in some sketchy behaviour, before, during and after appointments to Senate & government. We just don't usually hear about them.

Bill is bang on. The real commitment for Senate reform isn't there, because it's a way to use power, patronage and manipulation to stack the deck, whichever party is doing so.

New senator faces allegations over conduct as chief of aboriginal group

Budd Campbell said...

Bill, here's a question you or some other reporter might like to put to Nancy Greene Raine, or to Al Raine.

"Was your support, both financial and vocal, for the Reform and Alliance Parties in part a result of your frustrations with Indian bands who have opposed your planned development of the Cayoosh Ski resort, and a resulting attraction to the Reform and Alliance Parties because of their hard-nosed stance towards Indian Affairs spending and Aboriginal land claims?

If so, are you at all concerned that this antagonistic posture towards Aboriginal interests has been moderated in the re-united Conservative Party, particularly during the tenure of Jim Prentice as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs?"

I think questions like this could be the basis of a very memorable if rather short interview.

Anonymous said...

It may be time to think back a bit. If our parliament had accepted the idea and welcomed a bill to change the senate to an equal & elected senate, would these appointments been made. Of course not, it is a haven for party hacks and it is only this Government that has ever spoken about senate reform.
Everyone knows it needs a major overhaul, but it will never happen with this party system that is nothing short of dictatorial. Democracy, where did it go????? Jo5ey

Anonymous said...

It is extremely hypocritical for those who have opposed senate reform to criticize Harper for being stuck with the current patronage system and having to fill 18 vacancies just to keep the senate running.