Sen. Peter Harder, Trudeau’s outgoing point-man in the upper house, said the Conservatives’ loss in the last election has secured the Senate’s future as a more independent chamber free of partisan politics.
And while he’s pleased with the reforms made during his four-year term as government representative in the Senate, Harder said he’d like to see more people with political and parliamentary experience appointed to the place in the future.
Only a few of the recent Senate appointments have a background in politics — like Sen. Frances Lankin, a former Ontario NDP cabinet minister, and Sen. Pat Duncan, a past Liberal premier of Yukon. Most of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 51 appointees to date have been political neophytes.
Under Trudeau’s reforms, an independent appointments board compiles a list of eligible people to help the prime minister make his picks for the appointed chamber.
But the effort to rid the place of people with a partisan bent has left the Senate short of people who came into the job knowing how Parliament works.
Harder said Trudeau doesn’t have to return to a time when Senate appointments were given out as “gifts of the prime minister … rewards for political loyalty and the like.”
“I personally believe having political experience ought not exclude you from consideration for the upper chamber. We’d benefit from having individuals who’ve had experience in legislatures, or the House of Commons, or who are more active in political life,” he said. “But when you come to the Senate you turn that page [on party politics].”
Harder, a former senior public servant, said there’s been a steep learning curve for some of the Trudeau appointees coming from non-political fields like medicine, the arts, business or the charitable sector.
Joining the Senate means a transition from private to public life — and the way Parliament works is completely unlike a private business or a non-profit.
For example, the standing committee on internal economy, budgets and administration — which essentially governs the chamber’s operations — is accountable not to shareholders but to the Canadian people, through senators.
The procedural quirks of the Senate can be hard to master. And while the Red Chamber has considerable power to amend or defeat legislation — a tempting proposition for new senators eager to enact change — Harder said senators ultimately have to defer to the government of the day.
“It would be helpful, in the mix of skill sets that are in the chamber, to have people who’ve gone through the practicalities of legislating — which, by definition, requires political compromises,” he said.
The chamber’s composition notwithstanding, Harder said the Senate has been more effective since the reforms because more senators are now willing to push the Liberal government to improve legislation.
Of the 88 government bills passed by the Senate in the last Parliament, the Senate amended 32. And 29 of those amended bills ultimately were accepted in whole or in part by the government.
Critics maintain some of those amendments were inconsequential or would have been proposed by senators during the drafting stage if they still sat in national party caucuses.
But the Senate under Trudeau has made considerably more amendments than it did under former prime minister Stephen Harper — when only one bill was amended by the Red Chamber in a four-year period.
‘I take some pleasure in that’
Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer had promised to dismantle the Liberal government’s appointments process.
Scheer said he would revert to the decades-old tradition of appointing loyal party members to the Red Chamber.
When asked if he was happy with Scheer’s election loss on Oct. 21, Harder said no.
“I think that’s not the right adjective. I wasn’t relieved that Andrew Scheer didn’t win but I do think that our Senate experience, of being less partisan, more independent, will take root. I take some pleasure in that,” Harder said.
“The promise he made to go back to the political appointments and to the Senate of old is not good for the institution. It turned out not to be good for him politically, either.”
If the Liberal minority government can serve out an entire four-year term without losing a confidence vote, Trudeau will have appointed nearly three-quarters of the 105 seats in the chamber.
All of the Trudeau picks to this point have sat as Independents, outside of the traditional Liberal and Conservative caucuses.
Quebec Premier François Legault promises more affordable housing ahead of fall election campaign
The leader of the Coalition Avenir Québec promised today to fund 11,700 new units in the next four years if his party wins a second term on Oct. 3.
He says that amount will bring the province about halfway to filling the estimated shortfall of social and affordable units over the next 10 years, which his government pegs at 23,500 units.
Legault says his party would also subsidize rent supplements for 7,200 housing units, for a total investment of $1.8 billion.
While Legault has yet to announce an official start date for the fall election campaign, the main party leaders have been criss-crossing the province for weeks to hold public appearances and name candidates.
Recent polls suggest Legault’s party has a commanding lead, with more than double the support of his nearest rival.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2022.
The Canadian Press
Politics Briefing: Canadian researchers and scientists march for better compensation – The Globe and Mail
Scientists and researchers marched on Parliament Hill Thursday for a Support our Science rally, with the group calling for a living wage for early-career researchers.
The group is calling for a funding increase for grad students and post-doctoral scientists who are supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, an open letter details. The value of scholarships for graduate and postgraduate recipients has not changed since 2003, while living costs have risen steadily, the letter notes.
“You’re not able to really even focus on your studies because of so many financial concerns,” Sarah Laframboise, a biochemistry PhD student at the University of Ottawa, told CBC Ottawa Morning on Thursday.
A petition to the federal government is calling for a 48 per cent increase to graduate scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships – to match inflation since 2003. That petition has received more than 1,200 signatures, while the group’s open letter has been signed by around 7,100 people.
A physical copy of the letter – stretching more than 70 metres – was carried along the Rideau Canal toward Parliament Hill on Thursday.
This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written today by Marsha McLeod, who is filling in for by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.
INFLATION BILL CREATES POSSIBLE BUMPS – When the United States Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this week, Canadian political and industry leaders were elated by the legislation’s climate provisions, but other major changes in the bill set the stage for a trade standoff between the two countries over digital sales taxes. Story here.
NON-EMERGENCY PARAMEDICS – As a number of hospitals across Canada cut back the hours of operation of their emergency departments amid staff shortages, some veteran paramedics say an innovative form of paramedicine could help take the pressure off, specifically, through community paramedicine programs outside of hospitals. Story here.
EDITS ON SPEECH – A line attributing responsibility for abuses of children at residential schools – specifically, that it occurred “at the hands of the federal government” – was edited out of remarks prepared for Carolyn Bennett, who was the minister of Crown-Indigenous relations at the time. Story by The Canadian Press here.
HIGH UNIVERSITY REVENUES – From coast-to-coast, Canadian universities recorded record profits in the 2020-21 fiscal year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Story by the Toronto Star here.
AID SHIPMENT CANCELLED – A Canadian aid group said that a shipment of food, which they were forced to cancel because of a Canadian anti-terror law, could have fed around 1,800 children in Afghanistan. Story by CBC News here.
FIRES CONTINUE IN NEWFOUNDLAND – Newfoundland residents are preparing for the possibility they may have to evacuate their homes as two large forest fires continue to rage through the central parts of the province. Story here.
SENATOR WANTS TO END NDAs – A Manitoba senator wants all federal bodies to be prevented from using nondisclosure agreements in misconduct cases, following months of concern over Hockey Canada’s handling of a sexual-assault allegation. Story by the Winnipeg Free Press here.
THIS AND THAT
The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20.
FUNDING FOR SOMBRE MONUMENT – On Thursday, Betty Ross, an elder and member of the Assiniboia Residential School Legacy Group, along with Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller, announced more than $600,000 in funding to build a monument and gathering place to commemorate survivors of the Assiniboia Residential School in Winnipeg.
UNIFOR UNVEILS PROPOSAL – Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, released a proposal Thursday outlining its vision for “vehicle and parts manufacturing that transforms Canada into a global leader as the world transitions to electric vehicle production.”
In today’s episode, chef and author Suzanne Barr teaches The Decibel how to make her famous Caribbean curry chicken and reflects on how the dish helped launch her cooking career. Episode here. It’s the fourth episode of The Decibel’s Food Week.
PRIME MINISTER’S DAY
The Prime Minister is on a two-week vacation in Costa Rica.
No schedules provided for party leaders.
Tanya Talaga (The Globe and Mail) on the latest battleground for First Nations rights: “The next battleground is to the north and west of Lake Superior, on the traditional territories of Treaty 9, Treaty 3 and the Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850. It is here, in an area many Indigenous people share, where the waters of Turtle Island split and either flow north to Hudson Bay or south to urban cities. It is also the spot where the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, or NWMO, wants to send truckloads of radioactive material to be buried 500 metres deep into the Canadian Shield.”
David Parkinson (The Globe and Mail) on the arrival of the ‘great resignation’ in Canada: “Canada has largely avoided this phenomenon, at least in terms of the broad labour market. The number of workers overall who have voluntarily left their jobs has been well below prepandemic levels through the past two years, and has been on the decline over the past three months. … But among the 55-plus population, the story is suddenly very different. It’s as if older workers, having stuck it out during the depths of the recession and the frantic, uncertain recovery, have decided that they’ve had enough.”
Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on the hollow reassurances of Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones: “When asked whether the current health care situation in Ontario is unprecedented, Ms. Jones replied, “No, I’m sorry, it is not,” which is both incorrect and not the winning defence she thinks it is. (Don’t despair, good people of Ontario: our health care system has always been on the verge of collapse!) It is true that the province has faced ER shutdowns before, but it has never faced such a confluence of compounding crises: record-high waits for ward admissions, record-high health care sector vacancies, unprecedented lengths and numbers of “level zero” events where there are no paramedics available to answer emergency calls, and a massive backlog of diagnostic procedures and surgeries that have already put lives at risk and quality-of-life in peril.”
Max Fawcett (National Observer) on the recent U.S. tax bill, and how it should have Canada upping its climate change commitments: “It might finally be time to expect more here in Canada as well. After years of tiptoeing around the energy sector and its numerous allies in politics and the punditocracy, the federal government finally has the cover it needs to bring forward more ambitious policies. Those should include its long-overdue cap on oil and gas emissions and the proposed regulations on methane emissions, which are set to be published next year. And if the government was ever inclined to go easy on the oil and gas industry, recent comments from some of its most prominent (and well-paid) executives should make it think twice.”
Fae Johnstone (Ottawa Citizen) on how Canada must step up to protect LGBTQ2+ rights: “I see increasing attacks on efforts to make schools more inclusive for LGBTQ2+ students, rising incidence of hate crimes against LGBTQ2+ Canadians, and a more organized anti-LGBTQ2+ hate movement than ever before. Since 2015, I’ve lost most of my optimism. Early warning signs indicate Canada could be headed in the wrong direction. Provincially and federally, right-wing fringe parties have adopted anti-LGBTQ2+ rhetoric.”
Former British Columbia premier Christy Clark endorsed Jean Charest
OTTAWA — Former British Columbia premier Christy Clark on Wednesday endorsed Jean Charest to be the next leader of the federal Conservatives at a time when she says the party is racing to the extremes.
She also expressed choice words for a pitch from a front-runner in Alberta’s United Conservative Party leadership contest who has vowed to introduce legislation to ignore federal laws.
“I think that is bats–t crazy,” Clark said of Danielle Smith’s proposed Alberta Sovereignty Act.
Clark’s comment followed an impassioned speech she delivered in Edmonton to a room of conservatives gathered to discuss the need for the federal party to stick closer to the political centre.
The event was hosted by Centre Ice Conservatives, an advocacy group that formed at the start of the Tories’ leadership contest to encourage candidates to focus on issues like the economy. It argues that championing affordability measures resonate with mainstream Canadians more than others like fighting pandemic-related health restrictions, which has become a rallying cry for many across conservative movements.
Its co-founder Rick Peterson ran in the party’s 2017 leadership contest and has said the new group will not endorse a candidate in the current race.
Clark was the keynote speaker at Wednesday’s event and only waded into commenting on the contest to replace Alberta Premier Jason Kenney as UCP leader when asked to by an audience member.
Clark, who formerly led the centre-right BC Liberal Party, spoke for roughly 20 minutes about the need for political leaders to focus on what Canadians have in common and not stoke division.
She accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of dividing the country when he said the views of the “Freedom Convoy” protesters who blockaded roads and highways last winter to oppose COVID-19 vaccine mandates were unacceptable.
Clark said politicians who divide create opportunities for others to do the same.
“Now we’re watching the Conservative Party of Canada make its race for the extremes to play to the very edges of the political divide,” she said.
“I think some days their rhetoric is just as bad or even worse.”
Her comments come as party members have less than one month left to cast their ballots to pick the next leader.
The race, which began in February, has been a fight for the party’s soul and future direction.
The main rivalry has been between longtime Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who is running on a broad campaign message of “freedom,” and ex-Quebec premier Jean Charest, who has condemned the convoy as breaking the rule of law.
Of the 678,000 Conservative members able to vote in the race, the party reports that around 174,000 ballots have been returned ahead of the deadline Sept.6.
Speaking Wednesday, Clark said she recently received her ballot in the mail and will vote in the contest.
“I think Jean Charest would be a fantastic prime minister,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
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