In his story “Harper majority now sits in Senate” appearing in the Toronto Sun on January 25th, Parliamentary Bureau Chief David Akin tells us that with his 5 recent appointments, Prime Minister Harper has now appointed 53 out of the 105 present Senate incumbents. Not mentioned is the threat to democracy which prime ministerial appointments to the Senate bring with them.
The Senate is supposed to be a “house of sober second thought” and has the power to delay the implementation of government legislation. The Senate can also send legislation back to the Commons with a request that it be re-considered.
In Britain, the Monarchy is the head of state, and the position is hereditary. And, the House of Lords has in the past been hereditary, although that is now changing somewhat.
In Canada, the Crown is represented by the Governor-General, who is appointed by the Monarchy on the advice of the Prime Minister. And, as the Prime Minister also appoints the members of our equivalent to the House of Lords, he has a high degree of control over the two institutions which are supposed to provide the checks and balances necessary to keep him in line.
In my opinion, this completely defeats the purpose of having a Governor-General and a Senate, and can turn them into little more than playthings.
I feel that the Prime Minister’s ability to determine who exercises control over him in the exercise of his powers is completely unacceptable, and poses a severe potential threat to our rights and freedoms.
Our Prime Ministers have to stand for re-election every five years, but a great deal of damage can be caused in that period of time. Pierre Trudeau’s abuse of Orders-In-Council became legendary, and Stephen Harper seems determined to match him.
I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem, but the present situation cannot be allowed to continue. As I see it, this needs to be addressed as a matter of the greatest urgency.
See “Harper majority now sits in Senate” here, and my post “Lack of scrutiny over Chinese trade deal extremely dangerous” (regarding the use of an Order-In-Council signed by the Governor-General to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and debate of the Nexen sale to China) here.
See also “The Senate Today” on the Parliamentary website here.