Back in the last election, a hefty dossier of historical comments made by Stephen Harper on various issues appeared. At that time, I downloaded copies of all four documents for later use and, with the recent kerfuffle over the Senate, I thought that it was time to take a look back in time at Mr. Harper's commentary on the Appointed Chamber.
In case you've forgotten, Mr. Harper was one of the original members of the Reform Party and, in fact, he was one of their key policy creators. One of the lynch-pin policies of the Reformists was the "Triple E Senate", a Senate that was to be equal, elected and effective. In fact, as a resident of Calgary in the 1980s and 1990s, I can recall when current Alberta Senator and former farmer Bert Brown plowed 500 foot high letters into a field stating "Triple E Senate or else".
What I like to see in people is consistency, a commodity that is all too rare in the political sphere. As a scientist, I guess the idea of predictability appeals to me. What I see today, particularly in Mr. Harper, is a complete lack of consistency on many issues, none more so than Senate reform. With that in mind, here are a few of his past comments about the Senate as a leader of the National Citizens' Coalition, former Reform Party MP and Leader of the Opposition with the date and source of the information included:
"…but the real concern is, whether it's women or men or French or English or whatever, these people inevitably don't represent anybody but the prime minister who appoints them. We don't think as a party that patronage has any place in the Parliament of Canada." March 22, 1995 – Calgary Herald
Well, the truth is the Senate is a patronage position – virtually a lifetime patronage position – with little responsibility or accountability. And this is the fundamental problem. Let's remember Senator Thompson's record is poor in attendance, as are other senators', but the real problem is that even if a senator attends every sitting, he's still working less than half the number of days the average Canadian would work. And that's the greater problem with the institution.December 10, 1997 – CTV News
The preceding was Mr. Harper's commentary on Senator Andrew Thompson who was considered the Senate's worst truant at the time.
While the following quote is not related to the Senate, it speaks to Mr. Harper's former policy on expenses claimed by Ministers, in this case, Sheila Copps who claimed $180,000 in expenses without providing any receipts:
"I would like to know how a minister of the Crown can claim $180,000 in expenses without providing a single shred of evidence other than a self-serving statement that these expenses had been made on government business. If minister of the Crown spend our tax dollars, then Canadians have a right to know exactly how their dollars are spent." January 6, 2003 – Calgary Sun
Right, Tiny Mike?
"We (the Reform Party) don't support any Senate appointments." January 28, 1995 – Canadian Press Newswire
For your illumination and in case you've lost track, here
is a full listing of Harper Senate appointees:
That's 58 Harper Senate appointments in total in case you lost count and now gives the Conservatives a solid majority in the 105 seat Senate. In case you cared, the net cost of operations to Canadian taxpayers for this laughable group of political hacks and appointees was $106,167,639
in fiscal 2012, $3,136,538 of which was professional services, hospitality and meals.
Mr. Harper has now had a full majority since May 2, 2011 and has ruled as Prime Minister in a minority position since January 23, 2006. While the the legislation necessary to change the Senate would likely not have passed under a minority situation, Mr. Harper has had 20 months to effect such changes.
With the Wallin/Brazeau/Duffy debacle in the news, perhaps it's time Mr. Harper got on with his former agenda and show Canadians that he can be consistent on at least one issue of importance.
to read more of Glen Asher's columns