Thursday, December 11, 2008

Harper's last minute Senate patronage extravaganza

Breaking news from Bob Fife, go to man of the Harper PMO, last night: "Harper to fill 18 Senate seats with Tory loyalists." My but this has a distinctly bad odour to it. 18 appointments to the Senate en masse while Parliament is prorogued. The Conservatives will no doubt have their spin at the ready but the optics are very poor. Reinforces the image of Harper as a cornered animal, seeking to fill as many spots as he can at the last minute before defeat. After all, why didn't he do this over the past two and a half years? Why now? Oh yes, there's this:
...according to insiders, what really drove Harper to move quickly and fill the vacant Senate seats is the possibility of losing political power in January at the hands of the Liberal-NDP coalition.
Last minute bulk Senate appointments should really go a long way with the base at the moment after he's conducted himself in such a stellar fashion over the past few weeks. What's one more abandoned raison d'etre of Harper's career in politics and that of the Conservative/Reform base? Keep those donations coming, Conservative grassroots!

As for any spin coming our way on the horrible awful Senate that's been obstructing poor Harpie, well, the mass appointment frenzy is a result of his failed push for Senate reform, an ongoing failure of his own leadership. No leadership on the legislation, no leadership to engage the provinces:
First, as prime minister of a federation, he took a unilateral approach to constitutional change. Second, the record of the House of Commons shows that none of these bills were a priority for Mr. Harper. Given the way the government neglected them in the last session, while giving priority to 30 other bills that passed into law, it is hard to characterize them as anything more than window dressing.
If Senate reform was truly a priority for Mr. Harper, we would have seen a lot more action and a lot less talk. Now we get to watch a hypocritical Harper mass appointment spree.

(see also Jurist on Harper losing power , BCer on the hypocrisy, DT on the illegitimacy)

Update: Two more thoughts...beyond what the public will think about this, there's the simple fact of Harper showing his weakened position politically. This move shows he legitimately fears losing office, he's going to exercise the levers of power he can as he feels he might lose the confidence vote at the end of January. That's telling.

Secondly, is this the kind of thing the public wants the government spending its time on? Senate and possibly other patronage appointments in a frenzy of Conservative self-interest? How about the economic interests and jobs of the Canadian people, not Conservatives?