O’Leary’s Se­nate seat sale and other pre­pos­ter­ous ideas

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky

Whether you like the idea of mak­ing the Se­nate pay for it­self or not, what O’Leary is sug­gest­ing is sell­ing in­flu­ence.

Ah, Kevin O’Leary: the shadow can­di­date for the lead­er­ship of the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives.

Even­tu­ally, he’ll jump in, ready to — as he puts it — “speak jobs.”

His lat­est pro­nounce­ment? To sell off seats in the Se­nate to the mon­eyed classes.

“I don’t know why we can’t have at least $100,000-$200,000 a year com­mit­ted to each sen­a­tor. In­stead of it be­ing a cost cen­tre to Canada, why can’t it be a profit cen­tre? It’s an in- ter­est­ing idea. I’m happy to float it,” O’Leary said on CTV’s “Ques­tion Pe­riod” on the week­end.

Have you got $200,000 a year to pay for a Se­nate seat? I didn’t think so. Just imag­ine who does.

The Se­nate is al­ways a fat and com­fort­able tar­get, and O’Leary might have sim­ply been look­ing for the eas­i­est way to be­come a Mon­day-morn­ing sub­ject of con­ver­sa­tion.

In other words, it might well have been not so much a pol­icy or a plat­form as it was a way to keep his name in the news.

But, like most out­ra­geous ideas, it’s im­por­tant to at least go through the mo­tions of ex­plain­ing why, in fact, the idea is ei­ther meant to ap­peal to those who don’t have time to con­sider what it means, or who don’t care. It’s es­pe­cially im­por­tant be­cause Tories ap­par­ently be­lieve that some­thing as sim­ple as name recog­ni­tion makes O’Leary a cred­i­ble can­di­date.

Whether you like the idea of mak­ing the Se­nate pay for it­self or not, what O’Leary is sug­gest­ing is sell­ing in­flu­ence. That’s it. It’s no dif­fer­ent than tak­ing money for a vote in Par­lia­ment — in fact, it’s tak­ing money for ev­ery vote for a pe­riod of years.

The Se­nate, as un­wieldy as it is, has a con­sti­tu­tional role to play in mak­ing laws in this coun­try. It may have been a ves­ti­gial limb of the sit­ting gov­ern­ment for much of the time in re­cent years, but that doesn’t re­duce its pow­ers. Does it serve this coun­try to of­fer con­trol of a house of the Par­lia­ment to a ca­bal of those who can pay for the priv­i­lege? What would be their view of the in­ter­ests of Cana­dian cit­i­zens?

And why not con­tinue the ar­gu­ment to its log­i­cal ex­ten­sion? If what we want in gov- ern­ment is to sim­ply sell off re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and raise cash, why stop there? Why not sell the other law-mak­ing arms of the gov­ern­ment — if you pay enough, should you be able buy a seat in Par­lia­ment, or even buy the prime min­is­ter’s job?

Here’s an­other idea — why not sell search and res­cue re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to what­ever pri­vate agency is will­ing to make the low­est bid to pro­vide the ser­vices, and al­low that pri­vate com­pany the abil­ity to de­mand the credit card num­bers of fam­ily mem­bers of the lost or miss­ing be­fore a search be­gins? You can charge des­per­ate peo­ple an aw­ful lot of money, right?

Why not sell the en­vi­ron­men­tal assess­ment and in­spec­tion re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to pri­vate in­dus­try? Cer­tainly, there are pol­luters who might find it far bet­ter to own the en­v­i­ron- men­tal arm of gov­ern­ment than to clean up their act.

As trial bal­loons go, the biggest thing the O’Leary Se­nate pro­posal car­ries with it is a clear pic­ture of how O’Leary views the role of gov­ern­ment — as a sys­tem based solely on the bal­ance sheet, ethics be damned.

Gov­ern­ment is not busi­ness. Things like health care and ed­u­ca­tion are al­ways go­ing to be cost cen­tres — that’s be­cause they are gov­ern­ment ser­vices for all of us, not just for those with the biggest wal­lets.

And think about this: if Kevin O’Leary thinks sell­ing Se­nate seats is a good idea, you can only imag­ine what the rest of his fire sale would mean for you and your fam­ily.

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