Friday, August 28, 2009

Senate Reform, Balanced Budgets — Can We Look Forward For Some Progress?

Two interesting news stories came almost at once. First - Stephen Harper is planning to fill the 9 vacant Senate seats and - he has chosen John Williamson, a former national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, to be his new director of communications.

When it comes to the Senate appointments - the media claims that Harper plans to "put friends in Senate" while the Liberals blast the appointments as "Harpocrisy". But before they start crying foul over Harper's allegedly broken election promise, maybe they should ask themselves - what have they done to advance the Senate reform which would make the Senate appointment process more democratic?

If anything - their contribution is negative. Stephen Harper - at least he tried to pass those Senate reform bills despite the never ending filibustering. The opposition (especially the Liberals) - they are the ones behind the filibustering. They have successfully blocked any attempts to legislate Senate elections or even term limits. They wanted to keep the status-quo - they got just that, so they better not complain. If they were looking forward for Michael Ignatieff to fill those seats with Liberals - tough luck. After all - there's no law that says that only Liberals are eligible for Senate appointments.

So, once the 9 new Conservative Senators are summoned to the Upper Chamber, the Conservatives will have 46 seats, versus 53 for the Liberals, with the remaining 6 seats held by the Independent, non-aligned and "Progressive Conservative" Senators. 4 more upcoming retirements will narrow the gap to 46:50, with 5 "others". Yes, that's still 6-7 seats short of a majority, but now the government can count on the opposition Senators' poor attendance to pass some of the bills, maybe even - bill S-7, that would limit Senate terms to 8 years. Finally, it looks like we may have some progress on Senate reform - as long as the government actually survives the fall session.

Which I hope it will. A former CTF director as a new top spokesman - it looks like a long-awaited move in the right direction. Hopefully, with a man like John Williamson on board, the government could come up not just with a better communication strategy, but also - with a short- and long- term strategy to balance the budget, to slash wasteful spending, keeping the program expenses frozen for at least 3-5 years and to offer broad-based tax cuts for families and businesses.

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