Opinion

Trudeau’s Senate move better than the status quo

In a week where the B.C. government was accused of “provoking a teachers’ strike” and the federal government blasted for treating war veterans with disdain, it was a breath of fresh air when Liberal leader Justin Trudeau actually announced something that has Canadians thinking this is how a government should act.

Ever since the Senate scandal began, and years after patronage appointments were part and parcel for loyalty to the ruling party, there hasn’t been one leader with enough courage to say, “We have to make immediate changes.”

Scandals, backroom deals, suspensions and RCMP investigations haven’t been enough for the ruling party to even answer a question on the course of events let alone take any decisive action.

However, Wednesday morning Trudeau changed that perception when he announced all 32 Liberal senators will sit as independents.

No longer will they be considered members of the party’s “inner circle.” No longer will they weigh in on party policies or leadership reviews.

It’s not perfect but, for beleaguered Canadians who have lost faith in the political system, it’s something.

Even former Reform leader Preston Manning called the move  a step in the right direction.

True to form, the Tories sent its pit bull Pierre Polievre to lash out at Trudeau calling it a “smokescreen.”  His job, as always, is to denounce anything anyone says unless it comes from the mouth of a Conservative.

“The removal of senators from a weekly caucus meeting does not change the fundamental problem with the Senate, which is that it is unelected and unaccountable,” Poilievre said.

However, I beg to differ.

If the Senate is supposed to be a “chamber of sober second thought,” then why are senators affiliated with any party to begin with?

If they are truly independent of Parliament, why do senators tend to vote along party lines?

There was much hoopla made when a couple of Conservative senators voted against suspending the trio of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau. It raised eyebrows because senators don’t usually vote against anything their party proposes.

This is what they call “sober second thought?”

Trudeau may very well be pitching to the many disappointed Canadians who see how terrible and corrupt things have become in our nation’s government.

But his point is one that should be embraced by all parties.

The problem is no party would ever applaud a move by another. If only they had thought of it first.

The Senate has become a joke. The last round of appointments by Harper included Tory candidates who failed to win their ridings. Despite being rejected by voters as their representative, Harper gave them an even bigger role in deciding what rules the entire country

It’s certainly isn’t the first time politicians have used the Senate inappropriately. Brian Mulroney famously stacked the Senate with eight sudden appointments in 1990 to ensure his coveted GST had enough votes in the Upper Chamber.

Which brings us back to the problem with patronage appointments.

The Senate is supposed to be a balance to the party in power yet when the Senate is loaded with people loyal to the party in power is there really any balance?

Some Liberal senators are in favour of the move and others are already voicing their concern.

Here are unelected people given a golden job, great pay, great pension with virtually guaranteed job security (as long as they follow the rules). Some are complaining that their expense accounts will be slashed. Really? That’s the concern?

Aren’t we in the Senate mess due to the way some senators abused their expense accounts?

The complaining senators are always free to give up their jobs. I guess if they faced that prospect then many of them would suddenly use some sober second thought to their own stance.

Granted the Supreme Court is still reviewing any major change to the Senate. But right now, that chamber is under a huge cloud. So Trudeau did what a leader should do. He thought about what change he could invoke without the need to pay a bevy of lawyers and tie up court time.

It may not be perfect, it may not be as altruistic as he claims but at the end of the day he did something.

For once a politician has heard the complaints from the citizens and acted.

How honourable he acted is in the eye of the beholder.

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