Stephen Harper
2 min

Senate springboard is an insult

One day Stephen Harper appoints Larry Smith to the Senate, and the next, Smith announces that he’s going to run for MP in a Montreal-area riding in the next election, possibly pulling a Michael Fortier. It doesn’t help that he’s running in a riding where the Liberal is an incumbent who won by a landslide. But it raises a number of questions.

First of all, Section 39 of the Constitution Act states, “A Senator shall not be capable of being elected or of sitting or voting as a Member of the House of Commons.” So Smith is going to have to resign his Senate seat in fairly short order, assuming we have a spring election, and even if we go right until the autumn of 2012, it takes senators an average of two years to get up to speed anyway, so he’s sucking up institutional resources that could be far better spent on someone who is planning on using their position to make a contribution to public life. And as Scott Reid pointed out on Power & Politics last night, this means that Smith is getting a Senate office to subsidize his bid to run as an MP – to establish an office and networks in the riding, at the cost of the taxpayer. Insert outrage about this being an age of austerity and all of that.

The other thing that annoys me is this continued use of sports figures by Harper to try to grow his base, just like he’s co-opted Tim Hortons. First it was Jacques Demers in the Senate, and now Smith. Somehow the calculation is that Smith’s CFL credentials will make “football-crazy” Montreal suddenly think that the Conservatives are the viable federalist option in Montreal, and they’ll switch their votes en masse. Or something like that. Suffice to say, it’s pretty low politics, and it continues to debase public office in this country.

And Don Meredith? Pretty self-explanatorily, he bolsters Harper’s credentials among religious fundamentalists (Meredith is a Pentecostal minister), and his anti-gang work bolsters his tough-on-crime credentials in an era with a ton of law-and-order bills either in the Senate or headed there.

The Conservatives just lost at the Ontario Court of Appeal in an appealed judgment against Elections Canada regarding Conservative campaign financing practices with regard to GST rebates. This is but one of several court challenges, and the judge in this case had strong words for the Conservatives on their attempts to subvert the principle of equal financing. The Conservatives, naturally, plan to appeal this (and I’m sure they’re already sending out fundraising letters decrying those darned activist judges).

The government also got taken to task about environmental monitoring of the Alberta tar sands, especially where water is concerned. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s already jurisdictional bickering with the province that will likely derail things even longer.

Not that this should surprise anyone, but Alberta’s healthcare providers still list homosexuality as a “mental disorder” because they haven’t bothered to update their coding, saying it’s “too complex.” Yeah, that’s it exactly, I’m sure. And considering that the coding was used 1,782 times between 1995 and 2004, I’m also thinking that certain dubious mental health professionals in the province are getting rich by billing the system to claim they can cure gays. The provincial health minister has ordered it removed immediately, but we’ll see just what the pace of change really is.

It sounds like NDP MP Peter Julian is mulling a run at the BC NDP leadership.

And finally, curiously, Belinda Stronach is resigning from Magna International. Cue speculation of a return to federal politics.
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