Posts Tagged ‘Senate of Canada’

Queen advises: “Take a deep breath.”

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

We can all buy into that advice. It was directed mainly to Great Britain in Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message to the Commonwealth. It was obviously related to the surprise Brexit vote by Britain earlier in 2016. It is also excellent advice for the rest of the world judging by the recent antics of the American President Elect.

And please bear in mind that this writer is no monarchist. We consider the fact of Canada having a monarch to be archaic, outmoded, restraining and sending a wrong message about Canada to the rest of the world. And that is just part of the problem. While the Queen is a nice lady and takes her job seriously is no reason for Canadians to continue to go along with such an anachronistic and foolish fable.

And for Justin Trudeau to continue the fiction is an insult to Canadians that goes back to the speeches of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in support of the monarchy.

We can no longer band-aid the problems we have with a Senate that does not work for us. We have to have bipartisan appointments to the Supreme Court, not elitist appointments. Some people want to change how we vote but before that happens, we need to decide what positions we are voting for and how the government needs to be structured in the 21st Century. We do not live in the past and we do not need a system of government that was a best guess of the British Parliament at how we should run our country 150 years ago.

Canada needs to take action to create a democratically elected constitutional assembly that can study these questions with open minds and then come back to the people with a plan to bring our country into the present. And the people can then have their say.

Canada is our country. We build it bigger, stronger and more into the kind of country we want it to be every day with our labor, our intellect, our needs and our wishes. We should always remember that our representatives in Ottawa report to us. We elect them and we can elect those to replace them. Never underestimate the power of the people. And if that thought should amuse you, you should pay closer attention to what happened in Great Britain and the U.S.A. in the past year.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The silence of Trudeau’s lambs.

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

You wonder what a writer such as Thomas Harris (The Silence of the Lambs) would make of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s most recent elitist appointments to the Senate of Canada. What is really different in this circumstance is that these people are reported to have actually applied to be appointed. It is a strange type of job application where nobody with experience need apply.

Being offered the job of Canadian senator is like winning one of those scratch tickets that are supposedly offering cash for life. In this Senate, you are paid the salary of a member of parliament and quite generous expenses until you are 75-years old. And you do not have to run for re-election every four years. People used to have to prove themselves in politics for a number of years before getting that kind of offer.

And that is the serious problem with Justin Trudeau’s solution to the senate. He intends to fill the senate with political virgins who, he says, wear no visible party colors.

But he is forcing these very lucky people into a serious learning curve that some of them might not be able to handle. They are a mainly apolitical group being thrown into the ring with real politicians. They are supposed to deal with political questions for Canadians. They are supposedly nonpartisan and they have applied for a job where they are required to make what are partisan decisions.

But the Conservatives and New Democrats in Parliament are starting to come to their own conclusions. Looking at the backgrounds of these appointees brings them to the conclusion that most of these backgrounds are mainly of interest to people of a liberal inclination. It is not that they are Liberals in the political sense but they think like many liberals. Justin Trudeau might not have the experience of a jury consultant but he knows the people he likes.

By side-stepping the political vetting process and leaving it to his elite committee, Trudeau is striving for an appearance of a non-partisan selection process. He has failed in the attempt.

There is a simple explanation. If you ever want to see our prime minister scream and run for a place to hide, just suggest to him that we re-open the Canadian Constitution. He has an almost pathological fear of that process. He saw it as his father’s one failing.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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What’s in it for us?

Wednesday, October 19th, 2016

That is not a selfish question. It came up the other day when reading another boring presentation to the House of Commons special committee on electoral reform. “What is in it for us” is likely to be the cri de coeur of Canadians when they see what the months of gestation of the electoral reform question have produced.

An official report is in the offing.

For months we have been told of a democracy deficit, the false majorities, the policy lurches of alternative governments, how your vote does not count and how magically your vote can count if Canada just had proportional representation in parliament. We have been told of making every vote count, how to transfer our vote and how to ensure every minority is represented in parliament. We have had Canadians standing, waiting at alternative microphones to tell the committee of their alternative system of voting.

And we have also been told that nobody cares.

In Canada’s largest city, we were told that the news media did not bother to come to see democracy in action. And if the media are apathetic, are the citizens far behind?

But we are becoming increasingly convinced that the real problems are in Ottawa. The problem is in the all-powerful Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The problem is in an elitist, non-elected Senate of Canada. It is in electing gutless, sycophants of a party leader instead of people we would be proud to have as our member of parliament. It is the rigid control of parliament’s agenda by the PMO. It is the hand-in-glove relationship of our leaders and big business. It is in the increasingly complex and legalistic free-trade relationships that leave the people concerned in confusion.

This does not excuse the role and manipulations of the provinces that make up the Canadian federation. We are lucky today that we get the first-past-the-post winners from the provinces in Ottawa. We hardly need or want the malcontents of provinces that proportional representation would bring to Ottawa. And we are not just thinking of Quebec.

Maybe we wasted our time following this common’s committee process. It looks like whatever is reported will be an eight to three split. The Liberals, New Democrats, Bloc and Green are likely to agree on something while the Conservatives will hold out for a referendum.

The Liberal government will then have to decide just how much of its political capital it wants to spend on a foolish election promise by its leader.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Patience: Elites at work.

Friday, October 7th, 2016

It seems we might be seeing more of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s elitist senate. A committee of senators think they should have their own television channel. It is just a recommendation at the moment but you never know with these things. After all, who would have believed a TV channel that does nothing but burn a yule log on an endless loop? Watching elite senators snore in their seats might be just as exciting.

But is this not the house of sober second thought designed by our Fathers of Confederation to keep us colonials from running amok? Our prime minister has gone one better. Rather than worn and tired politicos being retired to the senate’s sinecure, we now have a committee of elites choosing elites for the PM to appoint. Political has-been’s need not apply.

Like Christ chasing the money-changers from the Temple, Mr. Trudeau proclaimed that Liberal senators were no longer Liberals. He was not allowed to fire them, so he did the next best.

But now he needs more elites to appoint or the remaining politicos will start to take control. There is already a recommendation that any group of nine or more senators be able to create a caucus of their own naming. And the idea includes budgets for caucus staffs and expenses. These people do not do things by half measure.

One of the more popular caucuses could be the one called something like “Wonderful Wednesday Wonkies.” This will be drawn from among those who only show up from Tuesday to Thursday to be sure to collect their fat paycheque. They could appoint Senator Mike Duffy as their honorary chair.

We hear that the elite committee already has a bunch of names from which Justin Trudeau can pick the finest and brightest if he wishes. There have even been some names leaked to show that the elitists are on the job.

But the more serious question is whether Canadians really want this farcical approach to a second house of parliament?

It is strange having known and talked with both Pierre Trudeau and his son. They are very different. Pierre Trudeau did not understand politics at first but he learned to accept it and use it. The son takes an entirely different approach to politics, he uses it but seems to detest it. He has used the Liberal Party and has set out on a path to destroy it. He has an almost pathological fear of re-opening the Canadian constitution and has come up with this silly elitist approach that has little chance of benefiting Canadians.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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What does electoral reform solve?

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

With one of the least experienced ministers in the government responsible for democratic institutions, you sometimes wonder what this special committee on electoral reform is supposed to solve. It seems to be a distraction. If there was a list prepared of the 100 most serious problems facing Canada’s democracy, it is likely that how we elect our MPs would not make the cut.

Any list of our democratic concerns has to start in the Prime Minister’s Office (the omnipotent PMO). It was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who welded together the PMO and the Privy Council Office at the hip with the help of his friend, then his Principle Secretary, Marc Lalonde to control every aspect of the Government of Canada. Pierre Trudeau had worked in the Privy Council Office as a young lawyer and he saw the potential power of the combination.

But what Pierre Trudeau used, Stephen Harper abused. And it seems Justin Trudeau is following in Harper’s footsteps instead of his father’s. In the elder Trudeau’s years in power, the system of senior regional Liberal ministers ran the patronage system dispensed across the government. Harper might have listened to people such as the late Jim Flaherty and MP Maxime Bernier but he maintained control of all patronage through the PMO.

It will not be until parliament itself gains control of all appointments that our MPs can start to earn their salaries. We have to have balanced committees of parliament vetting these thousands of appointments for agencies, boards, commissions and the judiciary on behalf of the people of Canada.

It is also critical to our democracy that we free the drones. There will be fewer useless MPs elected when we free them from always having to vote on their party’s command. MPs should be required to vote for their party only on the key votes. If they cannot vote for their party’s throne speech or its budget, then the government could fall but for all other House votes they should be able to vote on behalf of their constituents. (And that would change the attitudes of a lot of voters about voting for the party or the person.)

And we can hardly think of Canada as an authentic democracy with our still appointed Senate and a governor-general who is neither elected nor equipped with the staff to do the job. Ceremonial trappings of the past do not a democracy make!

Sunny days might be the watch words but there are still too many questions about where Justin Trudeau is headed.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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If Canadians had their druthers on the Senate…

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

The delays are over on the government’s Bill C-14 on assisted dying. The Senate showed its true colours: cowardice. After one effort to help fix the flawed bill from the Commons, the senators surrendered. It is disappointing to report that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s solution to the senate seems to be working.

When he was just third-party leader, the Prime Minister decided to solve the senate problem by telling the Liberal senators that they were no longer part of the Liberal Party caucus. And then as Prime Minister, he has tried to distance himself from his own appointments. These people—accept for the ‘government representative’—were supposed to act independently. And, to nobody’s surprise, they did—at first.

They had good reason to disagree with Bill-C14. The government bill on assisted dying was overly restrictive and missed the yardsticks suggested by the Supreme Court. It even seems to miss the yardsticks of public opinion. Canadians have clearly indicated that they are in favour of less restrictive end of life decisions.

But Justin Trudeau and his colleagues around the cabinet table would not accept the Senate changes. The Commons voted to send the bill back to the Senate unchanged. Pundits thought the cabinet had better options. They thought the cabinet might negotiate with the senators.

The only problem with negotiations is that the cabinet could only be seen negotiating with the senators through the government representative and nobody is sure how that would fly.

Obviously, the government did not want to be seen agreeing to the senators’ changes as that would guarantee a long line of bills over the next several years coming back with changes. It is not that the new ‘independent’ senators are all that political but most of them would certainly have enjoyed this new sense of power.

Of course, the best solution is still to do something about the Senate itself. If it is just going to defer to the House of Commons, what use is it? What kind of house of sober second thought have we created? Why are we wasting money on it and people who have no clear understanding of their role as senators? We need to be rid of it.

Sure, it would require changes in the constitution but Canadians are in a mood for that to change and Justin Trudeau still has the credits with Canadians that they would agree to it.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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The braggadocio of the blogger!

Monday, June 13th, 2016

That is one way to describe it. There is a hollowness in the endeavour. It is not just a hobby or an interesting way to waste away a few hours in your day. A daily commentary develops a life of its own. It is not like a Facebook page that you tend like a garden (and use lots of manure). Nor is it as simple as a daily ego trip down Memory Lane. And it is hardly a “Look at me. Ain’t I erudite and bright just like the twits on Twitter?”

A blog is more like a daily massage. You pay for it to make you feel good about yourself. If you had a point to make it soon becomes lost in the challenge of creating pithy daily commentary on the rest of the world.

While we originally intended to be more wide ranging in our comments, the readership seemed to grow more rapidly with political matters. We have readers from sea to sea and also around the world of the web. There is no problem with coming up with opinions on politics.

But before we forget the objective today, the intent was to apologize to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The freedom of a blog does not excuse rudeness. And being angry at our Prime Minister is no excuse. He is not a boy and this commentator crossed a line in insulting him. Many of us lost respect for the office during Mr. Harper’s term but Mr. Trudeau has done nothing in that office to earn the scorn we had for Harper.

As a long-term liberal and Liberal Party Member, it is obvious to our regular readers that we do not agree all the time with our Liberal Prime Minister. That is our right. Obviously frustration is no excuse. We should always try to keep the commentary civil. And that is the apology about what we called him in the recent commentary on his problems with the Senate of Canada.

We are coming into what the media refer to as the summer hiatus. There is no concern for topics to discuss here. With the Three Amigo Summit coming up in Ottawa, the Brexit vote in Great Britain and the upcoming political conventions in the United States this summer, there will be much to fuel our commentaries.

But, please, can we make an exception for that despicable Donald Trump? He is obviously no politician. Be sure to drop by occasionally.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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He wanted an independent Senate; he got it.

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

We told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that this independent Senate of his would bite him on the ass. And it happened sooner than anyone expected.

But to make the point on the assisted dying bill was pure justice. The Senate has challenged Justin on a key provision of this ill-considered bill. It is the very restrictive clause that was to keep people who might be depressed from their illness from calling it quits prematurely. The government bill was restricted to people who were sure to die shortly anyway.

It seems that the ‘Independent Senate’ was going along with many Canadians who cared about this bill. Justin’s Catholic sentiments aside, this was not what the Supreme Court had in mind when it insisted on Canadians having a say on life-ending decisions. ‘Severe and intolerable suffering’ is cruel and untenable in the 21st Century and cuts a broader swath than the Trudeau cabinet might want to go.

But it is Justin’s Senate now and he better just suck it up. He stupidly kicked all the Liberal retirees from the Liberal caucus and told these loyalists that they were no longer Liberals. And he hurt more than a few feelings in the process. To make matters worse, he sent a retired civil servant to the Senate—and at a nice stipend—to run the place. You just knew how that would work out.

And the Senate was just testing the waters when it sent the one amendment to the House of Commons. This was just the litmus test. If Justin and his gang reject the change, it will be war. If they do an end run and accept the change, the Senate wins and the government will be in danger with every single bill it sends to the Upper House.

And do not forget, the Senate can come up with some bills of its own. That will be the end of ‘Sunny Days’ for our boy leader.

Like it or lump it, our boy leader needs to accept the fact that his solution to the Senate is a crock. It does not make sense and does not work—at least for him. He needs to re-address his solution. He has either got to win some friends in the Senate and add enough other friends to control the damn place, or find another way to fix it.

The point is that somebody has to act responsibly. Our suggestion was that we ask all senators to resign and let all the political parties appoint replacements (until the next federal election) equivalent to their percentage of votes in the last federal election. That way the parties will be responsible for the Senate and the public will know who to blame if things do not work.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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Harper goes “quietly into the night.”

Friday, May 27th, 2016

That line from Shakespeare’s Henry V is a haunting phrase that can give deep meaning to a legacy. The only problem for Canada’s failed and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper is his lack of a legacy. He united the right and rode that tiger into power. Yet he could never dismount. He ruled firmly from atop the beast. He rode it into a legacy of failure.

Harper’s was not a proud sojourn of power. Compared to Pierre Trudeau’s patriating of the Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Harper is a sorry figure. He denied global warming, he ignored science and refused the long-form census, he prorogued parliament to keep his grip on power, he used foreign affairs to win electoral districts and he insulted the President of the United States. He was hardly an innovative leader.

But he micro-managed the government from a barricaded Prime Minister’s Office. It was from there that he cast his edicts, appointments, publicly paid advertising and attacks on the opposition alike. He rejected friendships, confidants and well-meaning advice with the same dismissiveness. He stood alone for almost ten years as prime minister.

To us, he was always ‘The Hair.’ His perfectly positioned hair piece was kept carefully lacquered in place. He is probably the only world leader who showed up at G-7 and G-20 meetings with his own hairdresser. It was likely also why he earned a reputation for always being late for the group photo.

And what will he do in this quiet time to come? He did not speak of the future in addressing the Conservative Party at its meeting in Vancouver. It was nothing more than platitudes. It will be his swan song. It is part of going quietly. He has nobody to blame but himself.

He can hardly disclaim his choices for the Senate of Canada. He never liked or respected the ‘other place’ anyway. His manipulative appointments caused the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party over expenses and claimed residences. Canada is hardly the type of country that would allow the R.C.M. Police to charge the real guilty party in that fiasco.

He will not be best known for fighting with the Supreme Court either as that was just one more battle he could not win. And yet he was in many ways one of the best political strategists we have ever seen operate. As time went on, he picked his battles with less care. His efforts are already turning to dust.


Copyright 2016 © Peter Lowry

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An appropriate salute to Queen Victoria.

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

The following is a repeat of our 2013 salute to Queen Victoria. Nothing has changed. Enjoy your long weekend.

Happy birthday Your Majesty! As children in Ontario, we used to set off fireworks to celebrate your birthday. It was a joyous occasion. It was wonderful to know that the sun never set on your empire. We were all British subjects. You were the image of our strength. You were a moral compass. We all got passing grades in our loyalty.

But times have changed lady! You have been dead for some 113 years. The children that you spawned to repopulate the palaces of Europe are long gone. Your great-great granddaughter, Elizabeth II is fast coming up on your length of service to your people as one of the few reigning monarchs left in the world. When she joins you in history, there are no bets on where the English royals are headed.

Elizabeth II has certainly done a fine job on shoring up the monarchy but her own son, the Prince of Wales is one of the stumbling blocks. There is just no respect for a man who was provided with a story-book princess. She gave him a couple of nice kids but he was too busy boffing an old flame. The demise of the princess almost turned into a public relations disaster for the Brit royalty.

So how do we honour you Victoria? What is appropriate in Canada to recognize the sovereign who was the midwife of our Confederation? In a few more years, Canada will celebrate 150 years. It is way past time to release us from your apron strings. Canada has proved its loyalty in the blood of wars and support in times of need. We should, in your honour, write a new constitution for this country, this Canada.

Canada has surpassed its origins. We have welcomed the peoples of the world. We are not just English or French anymore. We are all languages, all races, all religions and our perspective is of peace and hope and progress and compassion. Sorry Madam but a country such as this must stand on its own.

And it is also past time when we need to recognize our needs as a country. We tried to import your Parliament of Westminster to this new land and failed. We have the weaknesses in our parliamentary structure that Oliver Cromwell noted hundreds of years ago. We have been unable to patch them with the customs evolved over time as has Westminster. Our version of a House of Lords is a sham. Outdated, misused and misunderstood, the Canadian Senate has failed. It needs modern thinking.

Canadians pride themselves on their democracy. Yet we need checks and balances to the power of our Prime Minister’s Office. We need to distance our court and administrative agency appointments from politics of the day. We have much to rethink. And even if we reason that the time is long past for a royal head of state, in Ontario at least, we will be sure to keep our Victoria Day long weekend holiday.


Copyright 2013 and 2016 © Peter Lowry

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