41st Canadian Parliament
2 min

Signs of Conservative independence in the Senate

While the Commons may have risen on
Thursday, the Senate was still hard at work on Friday morning. And lo and
behold, Conservative Senator Pierre Claude Nolin spoke out against the omnibus
crime bill during second reading debate. That’s right – some Conservative
senators are indeed capable of independent thought (unlike, it seems, their
Commons counterparts). Nolin especially objects to the drug provisions in the
bill – he has long thought that laws criminalizing pot are a mistake, and
seeing as the bill seems to further criminalize the possession and use, well,
he can’t support it. And thus may I remind you of the usefulness of the Senate.
Senators are not held to the same rigorous discipline that MPs are, and that is a
good thing. (Yes, some of Harper’s more recent appointees do still labour under
the misapprehension that they can be whipped and that they somehow owe some
loyalty to the man who appointed them, but they would be wrong, and everything
will be better once they realize this. This process will be hastened when there
is a leadership contest in the party). Having a group of legislators not worried about the popular
(or populist) impulses and able to look at bills from a more critical distance
as “Canada’s original think tank” (as it has been termed) can only serve to
improve legislation – and often it does. Well, until recent times and the
Harper government’s impulse to bulldoze bills through with little regard for
their flaws or for the Senate’s deliberative process. But suffice to say, Nolin
should be praised for his independence, and it will make the committee study of
C-10 that much more interesting when the Senate returns at the end of January.

Other drama in the Senate yesterday
included Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire standing up to blast Senator Pamela
Wallin’s handling of the committee on security and national defence (and yes, I’ve
heard from outside sources in the defence community that Wallin has pretty much
degraded the usefulness of the committee to being virtually nothing).
Senator Bert Brown decided to go on some bizarre rant about the Federal Court
ruling on the Canadian Wheat Board, and it got to the point where his own caucus
mates had to go over and quiet him down. But then again, Brown has seemed to be
living in a fantasy world of his own creation for quite some time.
(Did I ever tell you about the time when he all but called me a Nazi in the
pages of The Hill Times for
challenging his “democratic” credentials with actual facts and figures? That
was pretty special.) Who said that sober second thought was also sleepy or
boring? Because it actually tends to be more engaging than the Commons, even
without this drama.

The trade association that represents
marketing and polling firms is now looking into the firm that engaged in the
political dirt-baggery that Irwin Cotler was subjected to on the Conservatives’

Susan Delacourt profiles Justin Trudeau as
he prepares to turn 40.

Paul Dewar wants to offer youth a break on
their tuition in exchange for a year of volunteer work. You know, like the
Liberals did in their election platform.

The bill to increase the number of MPs in
the Commons may have passed, but more work needs to happen with the Electoral
Boundaries Commission in order to ensure fairness,
especially for urban voters. The elimination of the “rurban” ridings would be a
really good place to start, as they are some of the most toxic distortions of
electoral boundaries that currently exist, and the sooner they can be
eliminated for more proper urban and rural ridings, the better.

And here is a list of 11 things the
Conservatives accomplished during the fall session.

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