Unelected senate not looking so bad to Tories, now that it’s killing pro-environment bills

Unelected senate not looking so bad to Tories, now that it's killing pro-environment bills
The Canadian Senate (Image: Scazon)

Some days, the Canadian Senate is a place where unelected, largely unaccountable public servants try to get through their days without attracting too much attention. And other days—very, very rare days—the Senate decides to cause a fuss and do something of consequence. Yesterday was the latter, as Conservative senators caught the opposition napping and suddenly killed an NDP bill that would have committed Canada to an 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. According to one NDPer, this is the first time the Senate has killed a bill that had been passed by the House of Commons since before World War II.

But wait. Aren’t the Tories the ones that hate the unelected Senate? Perhaps this is a good time to take a walk down memory lane and review some of the things that the prime minister has said about those unelected folks in Canada’s Red Chamber.

Back in 1996, Stephen Harper lambasted Jean Chrétien for the “disgraceful, undemocratic appointment of undemocratic Liberals to the undemocratic Senate to pass all too often undemocratic legislation.” Then, in 2006, shortly before being elected, he said that the then Liberal-dominated Senate should let a possible Conservative government get its laws passed, adding he hoped the Red Chamber would “not try and interfere with the democratic will of the elected House.”

Of course, that was then and this is now, so when Harper started filling vacancies in the Senate with Conservatives, an anonymous source told the Toronto Star, “We need Conservatives in the Senate who are loyal to the party, to the cause and to him.” Creepy autocratic vibes aside, it’s worth recalling that before he started stacking the Senate, many of the Conservatives in the upper house were holdovers from the Mulroney and Chrétien years, and didn’t have quite the ideological zeal Harper was looking for. There are probably some high-fives going around the PMO right about now.

Whether anyone should be surprised by all this is another question entirely: the PM has, of course, already gone to the unelected governor general to stop the will of the House of CommonsTwice. This is just how he rolls, and anyone who has a problem with it can get their own minority government.

• Unelected Tory senators kill climate bill passed by House [Globe and Mail] • Senate kills climate change bill [CBC News] • Senate kills climate-change bill ahead of United Nations talks in Mexico [Winnipeg Free Press] • Orders of the Day - Conservative Senate majority 1, Climate Change Accountability 0 [CBC Inside Politics]


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