3 min

It’s not like they actually do anything, right?

There was a story out on Friday about how some of the latest batch of Senators wanted to keep their old day jobs, because you know, it’s not like they actually do anything in the Upper Chamber, right? Two of the new appointees who thought that they could easily do double-duty included a Québec mayor and the aforementioned Jacques Demers, who wants to keep commentating on hockey games and such.

What struck me while reading this article was the fact that so many people – including apparently some media outlets – seem to have little grasp as to what kind of work actually happens in the Senate. For as long as it is continually portrayed as a cushy pre-retirement perq for party faithful rather than a chamber where actual policy gets debated and decided upon, we’ll continue to see stories like these. I’ve met more than a few Senators in my time on the Hill, and pretty much to a single one, they’re people who are busy five days a week – and the Senate only sits three of those days. If they’re not actually in the Chamber, they’re hard at work with their committees, giving most legislation a far more thoughtful once-over than it gets in the Commons (and we have seen an increasing number of examples of bad legislation that has come out of the Commons in recent years that ends up getting caught in the Senate), and many of them have personal projects that they want to accomplish during their time there, usually relating to an area that they’re passionate about.

It’s true that the Senate hasn’t done a good job of selling itself in the past, and stories of abuses by honourable Senators are more likely to make the round than stories of good work that they’ve done (like fixing some of the most glaring holes in the “Accountability Act” when the Commons rushed it through in a rush to punish the Liberals). And that’s a problem for the political education of the nation, and it allows people to not get suitably outraged when Harper appoints wholly inappropriate people to the Upper Chamber because they promise that they’ll help him pass his (unconstitutional) reform package and that they’ll only serve eight years – promise! In fact, the more I’ve thought about it, the more Demers seems entirely unsuited for the job, given that he’s been functionally illiterate for his life and doesn’t follow federal politics at all. When your new job is to scrutinise legislation and develop new policy, one has to wonder if he’s really the best person for the job. Oh, wait – he’s successfully distracted the media from the other ultra-partisan appointees. I guess he’s done his job already.

Also, in case you were wondering, just before Harper made these appointments, a whole pile of other patronage appointments went out, and at least 20 of 111 appointees were verifiable federal or provincial Conservative donors and supporters. Because you know, Harper came into office on a promise of cleaning up the way appointments were handled.

Harper, by the way, says he’s more concerned about the way that his god will judge him rather than the history books. Good to know.

On the topic of appointments, Immigration minister Jason Kenney says that IRB staffing is finally nearly at 100 percent, but our refugee problems are still because of the system, and not because they left so many vacancies unfilled that it created the backlog that spiralled out of control. Funny how it’ll take six months to get the new appointees up to speed, which wouldn’t have happened if he’d retained trained adjudicators rather than made fresh appointments. But you know, they still have to make it look as broken as possible in advance of their proposed reforms this autumn, likely so that they can justify more drastic changes.

While Liberals Scott Brison and John McCallum put out another release to decry the trade deficit and the deepening job crisis, the Liberals are again vacillating on whether or not to force an election this autumn. Because apparently it’s a day that ends in y.

If looks like Jewish groups are getting 84 percent of the new funds designed for improved security against hate crimes. I’d be curious to see which other groups got the remaining money, and while I’m not saying that Jewish groups don’t need the increased security, I am forced to wonder if this isn’t just one more angle of attack in Harper’s bid to secure the Jewish vote.

And finally, Alberta will delay the new law that makes it a human right for parents to pull their children out of classes containing religion, sexuality, and sexual orientation, for a year. Apparently, they still have a few problems to work out – such as how exactly they can make this sop to the religious right workable in the real world. After all, what are they going to do – send a note home before those classes, or post the entire curriculum online?