Harper an­nounces mora­to­rium on Se­nate ap­point­ments

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper has an­nounced a mora­to­rium on Se­nate ap­point­ments.

Harper says it is clear that Cana­di­ans are not happy with an un­elected, un­ac­count­able up­per house and his gov­ern­ment will not do any­thing to en­trench the sta­tus quo.

Harper has not made any ap­point­ments to the 105-seat Se­nate in the last 2 1/2 years and there are 22 va­can­cies

“The gov­ern­ment is not go­ing to take any ac­tions go­ing for­ward that would do any­thing to fur­ther en­trench that un­elected, un­ac­count­able Se­nate,’’ he said Fri­day at a news con­fer­ence in Regina.

“It will be our pol­icy to for­mal­ize that. We will have a mora­to­rium on fur­ther Se­nate ap­point­ments.’’

He said leav­ing seats open will save money and that not mak­ing ap­point­ments since 2013 has al­ready brought Se­nate ex­penses down by $6 mil­lion.

He also hopes the mora­to­rium will push the prov­inces to come to an agree­ment about what to do with the con­tro­ver­sial in­sti­tu­tion.

“It will force the prov­inces ... to ei­ther come up with a plan of com­pre­hen­sive re­form or to con­clude that the only way to deal with the sta­tus quo is abo­li­tion.’’

How­ever, the Supreme Court has al­ready made it clear that al­low­ing va­can­cies to pile up can’t go on in­def­i­nitely since it would amount to abo­li­tion by stealth.

The Se­nate has been en­gulfed in scan­dal for al­most three years over im­prop­erly claimed ex­penses. Three sen­a­tors ?_ Mike Duffy, Pa­trick Brazeau and Mac Harb (now re­tired) _ have been charged with fraud and another, Pamela Wallin, is un­der RCMP in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A scathing au­dit last month flagged 30 more cur­rent and for­mer sen­a­tors who’ve made du­bi­ous ex­pense claims, nine of them se­ri­ous enough to war­rant ask­ing the RCMP to in­ves­ti­gate.

The up­per house has also been em­bar­rassed by al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment or mis­con­duct by sev­eral sen­a­tors, the most re­cent in­volv­ing Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Don Mered­ith.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, who favours abo­li­tion, said he fully sup­ports the prime min­is­ter’s move.

“It will be up to pre­miers ... to re­spond to this now.’’

The prime min­is­ter threw in the towel last year on his three-decade cru­sade for an elected Se­nate af­ter the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that re­form­ing the cham­ber would re­quire a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment ap­proved by at least seven prov­inces with 50 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion.

The top court set the bar even higher for abo­li­tion. Get­ting rid of the Se­nate al­to­gether, the court ad­vised, would re­quire unan­i­mous pro­vin­cial con­sent.


Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper speaks at the Saskatchewan Leg­isla­tive Build­ing in Regina, Sask., Fri­day.

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