Tuesday, May 30, 2006

If this is evolution, to hell with Darwin

Stephen Harper was successful in blunting fears about his extremism during the federal election by saying he had "evolved" on several key issues, most of them regarding social policy.

Who would have imagined, however, that he evolved so far past his Reform
populist roots that he would end up sucking up to those currently appointed to and those desiring appointment to Canada's brass ring of patronage, the Senate.

This evening, we read this news:

Harper hopes to elect senators by next ballot


Globe and Mail Update

Ottawa — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he's still hopeful that Canadians will go to the polls to elect a senator at the next federal election, even though a new government bill to reform the upper chamber falls short of that pledge.

“I favour electing senators and I still favour electing senators (but) that's a more controversial measure, one that I am prepared to look at in this term of government,” the prime minister said in an interview with The Globe and Mail and CTV News Tuesday afternoon.

“What we thought we would start with would be a measure that everybody should be able to agree with.”

Mr. Harper made the comments after his government introduced legislation that would limit senators to eight-year terms. However, the bill does not call for a timetable to elect the Senate. Also on Tuesday, the four western premiers said they would also like to see an elected senate. Three of them said they'd abolish it altogether. ...

Almost no other policy plank of the old Reform Party apart from abolishing the gun registry is as memorable as having an "effective, equal and elected" -- or Triple E -- upper chamber.

Here is Harper's mentor, Presto Manning when he led Reform:

Recently, I reintroduced my Senate Selection Act in the House of Commons. This bill would force the Prime Minister to seek the opinion of the electors in a province before naming a Senate seat in that province. Many people have approached me and said the Senate should simply be abolished—that it is a waste of money. I agree that the current Senate arrangement is not serving Canadians. But, if we abolish the Senate, Canadians outside of Ontario and Quebec will continue to be at the mercy of Central Canadian influence. The Senate has the potential to provide a more balanced regional representation to protect less populous areas of the country.

In addition, the Senate should act as a chamber of sober second thought on government legislation. While an elected Senate is the first step to achieving true representation, it is only one-third of what is needed to ensure Canadians are truly equal. The answer is a Triple-E-Senate:

Effective: Under current legislation the Senate has the power to be effective in representing regional interests and sober second thought. However, because the Senate is not elected and represents the worst of partisan, political patronage, it lacks all legitimacy. It is unaccountable to Canadian taxpayers.

Equal: Although Senators frequently say that they will take on regional interests, when push comes to shove they invariably vote along party lines. If they were elected they would be accountable to the regions they represent.

Elected: The starting point of Senate reform so that Canadians will have a lawmaking system that reflects the needs of this great country is with the election of Senators. The Senate and its important functions will never be a legitimate part of the lawmaking body, unless its members are accountable to the people of Canada through a democratic election process.
By inclination, we would be just as happy with surgical removal of this atrophied vestige of olden days. However, an elected upper chamber has some appeal and Manning's old bill still makes a lot of sense. But it appears his heirs are happier keeping the Marjorie LeBretons and Janis Johnsons of the world in a state of comfort than adhering to their principles.

If this is evolution, to hell with Darwin.