Tuesday, May 12, 2015

On powers of appointment

Andrew Coyne has rightly pointed out the gall the Senate is showing in nixing Michael Chong's watered-down Reform Act (even if there's something to a few of the criticisms). But let's not miss the most absurd suggestion of all as to who should be given increased power over a party's leadership (emphasis added):
“I just don’t think this kind of things should be left in the hands of caucus, when our process for electing leaders [is] in the hands of the grassroots,” [Con Senator David] Wells said. He suggested the bill be amended to require a minimum consent of 50 per cent of MPs and senators to call for a leadership review.
That's right: in the name of grassroots involvement, the Cons are actually arguing that unelected Senate hacks should have the authority to determine when a leadership review is necessary.

It's not entirely clear whether Wells wants a majority to be required in each chamber, or only based on the combined total in both. In the latter case, the Senate's new authority would extend to having the ability to force a review even when neither members nor elected MPs want one if the numbers allow it. (And lest that seem like a distant hypothetical, it would have been possible for Lib Senators to require a review without a single MP's support before they played around with their Senate affiliations.)

But even if Wells merely wants senators to have a veto over a possible leadership test, the end result would be to exacerbate what already makes the Senate toxic. Faced with the possibility that a party's senators might hold the power to force a leadership review, any Prime Minister would have a strong incentive to appoint the most beaten-down of trained seals rather than anybody willing to exercise an ounce of independent thought.

All of which figures to suit Harper and his party rather well. But it also highlights why Canada deserves better than a second chamber dedicated to assuring its own uselessness.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous3:54 p.m.

    Chong had publicly declared victory for his bill, and for grassroots reform, when it was passed by the House. Now it seems it won’t even see the light of day in the Senate.

    Either Chong was part of the game (to fool voters that they were about to get a Reform bill, watered down as it already was, with a secret plan to nix it at Senate) or he had totally been played for a sucker by his party. Not good either way.

    Rathgeber at least resigned when they screwed up his bill. If Chong had any integrity left, he should resign and run as an independent, as Rathgeber had done.