Larry Smith Appointment Highlights The Farce
Like most Canadians, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the Senate. We don’t vote for it’s members, it seems to have been around forever, and rarely, if ever, is there any clear cut scandal or publicity that implies that all is somehow not well in this government appointed body. And, besides, we have the melodramatically bad acting and general artery busting outrage of the House of Commons to keep us entertained and distracted when it comes to trying to understand how this country actually functions.
It would be almost fun if it all wasn’t so damn important!
Some appointees during the Harper years do raise some flags for me, Jacques Demers, Pamela Wallin, and Mike Duffy, to name just a few of the better known Senators. What, exactly, was their qualifications for being in the senate? Duffy is an old political journalist, but he is more of a political networker, borderline groupie, than an actual hard on the issues type of contributor. Pamela Wallin? Makes me mistrust all our television newsreaders to see her go in the Senate as a Conservative, or any other party for that matter, and Harper’s dream of a Fox North would no doubt be populated by future Senators. Make no mistake, they have agreed to go in as Conservatives. Jacques Demers? I have served on the board of a well known literacy group, and, sorry, Jacques, having a senator with reading issues just sends the wrong message.
So along comes Larry Smith, a football executive, whose monstrous ego is well displayed in his comment about the Senate minimum wage of $132,000 a year being a “catastrophic” cut in pay. Perhaps Bill Gates or Oprah could use that word under those circumstances and at least be technically correct, although it’s unlikely any of us would swallow it. To further complicate things, Mr. Smith claimed that he would not accept a post in the federal cabinet until he has earned his way in after being elected as an MP. Not exactly humble stuff, Mr. Smith then announces that he will run in a riding on the West Island of Montreal. At least the Senate salary would cover pre-campaign expenses until that time that he announces his candidature and quits the Senate. That’s right, folks, Stephen Harper has appointed a Senator who will step down in less than two years to run for the House of Commons, and, no doubt, a place in cabinet. Too bad you can’t just appoint MP’s, eh, Mr. Harper?
Ever seen a young person at work who gets hired and is so boneheadedly obnoxious to everyone and shares with all his belief that he will be running the company in 6 months? That little rumbling in your brain is the sound of Larry Smith entering Canadian federal politics.
One Third Of Senate Appointed By Stephen Harper
Is Canada still a democracy? Well, the Senate sure isn’t with 36 of 105 seats having been appointed by Stephen Harper, almost all being close to the Prime Minister. And having one third of the Senate appointed by the current Prime Minister is just wrong, doesn’t matter how you spin it, or what has happened in the past, an active legacy of incestuousness does not a proper Senate make. Stephen Harper once talked about Senate reform, but then he saw how difficult it is to pass bills not necessarily in the best interests of Canadians and began stacking with religious energy. This is not a man who is interested in serving the common good, but those of very specific interests who are part and parcel of the Conservative agenda, those who will enthusiastically make the rich richer, the poor poorer, and may the average working Canadian be damned! We have seen this in the United States and it is happening here whether we choose to believe it or not.
The Senate has a number of Standing Committees that work on specific issues such as Finance, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, and the Environment. The Standing Committee on the Environment is actually Energy, The Environment, and Natural Resources. How on earth does that work? You have people from the mining industry lobbying everyone to exploit more land, which causes ridiculous amounts of pollution, standing in the same line with environmentalists who would like to see better standards for those industries. Do they just balance each other out and nothing gets done? Or does the Standing Committee have ideas of it’s own? Right now the Standing Committee for Energy, The Environment, and Natural Resources consists of 7 Conservatives, 3 Liberals, and one Progressive Conservative. That is a majority held by a political party that has a horrible track record, let alone an ignorant attitude, on the environment and would love to actually expand the Tar Sands project in Northern Alberta. Not a good example of Democracy in action.
As The House Of Commons Behaves So Does The Senate
Somehow there is a certain dignified sound to “The Senate” that probably makes most Canadians feel they are being served well by an incredible body of experienced thinkers ready to do the right thing at every turn. There is a certain comfort in knowing that the future of country is in good hands regardless of the possible shortcomings of the government of the day. Dream on, folks, because The Canadian Senate is every bit, in fact much more so, a farce like the House of Commons, a fat bloated pack of name calling partisan jerks who vote along party lines.
Here is a sample from Debates of The Senate, December 1, 2010, Question Period.
Hon. Grant Mitchell:Could the leader give us some idea when the Prime Minister will put enough priority on the environment to actually appoint a full-time Minister of the Environment, or is he just happy having someone who has no time to do what needs to be done on that important file?
An Hon. Senator: Well, we are doing way more than you did.
Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Absolutely, honourable senators. Everything that we do is 100 per cent more than what was done before.
An Hon. Senator: That is right.
And a little further down the page.
Senator Mitchell:To be fair, because the leader keeps throwing it up, could she tell us how much carbon all of their vaunted greenhouse gas programs have actually reduced over the last one or two years? Is that possible?
An Hon. Senator: Come clean!
Senator LeBreton: Imagine that! A Liberal telling a Conservative to come clean!
Senator Comeau: Let’s get the brown paper bags!
Senator Di Nino: You should hide in shame — forever!
Senator Mercer: Are you allowed to talk to Brian yet?
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator LeBreton: I said many times that Senator Mercer is in the wrong job. They should put him on a little tugboat in the harbour in Halifax and use him as a foghorn. He would be a lot more effective.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Comeau: A good lighthouse. Man the lighthouse!
And on it goes…
The Canadian Senate is a joke! We need to change the way that it is done, and quickly too, even if it does mean one more thing to vote on. It’s a damn good country, flawed no doubt, and it has been a world leader in many areas for a long time, but we are losing that edge, becoming a country that is better known for environmental crimes and supporting irrational American wars, all led by a government (and Senate!) whose interests are best served by distorting facts, awarding the wealthy at the expense of the land and the people, a government that seems to begrudge fair play and honest communication, and wants to destroy all that is good and beautiful about the Canada we all love.