Friday, January 30, 2009

Fun in the Senate

A follow-up to Senator Elaine McCoy's post earlier today at "Hullabaloos" where she alerted us to the bill that Senator Lowell Murray has initiated in the Senate to repeal Harper's fixed election date law...

How interesting is this given who Murray is. Brian Mulroney's alter-ego during the Meech Lake era who led the charge for it as Mulroney's constitutional go-to guy and Minister of Federal-Provincial Relations.  It's not clear how close the two remain.  But we still have a Progressive Conservative Senator and historical Mulroney ally here, in effect embarrassing Harper with this move. Note some of Murray's remarks in the Senate, firmly rebuking Harper:
The bill that we passed into law is a facade. It is misleading; I would almost say it was intended to mislead. In any case, it is of no force or effect.

In the run-up to the dissolution last fall, the Prime Minister was quoted — I can point to other quotations but I will sum it up with one quotation from a press conference he gave at the Library and Archives Canada on August 26, which states:

"We are clear. You can only have certainty about a fixed election date in the context of a majority government."

We heard nothing of that view in the debate on Bill C-16.
Then, with tongue-in-cheek:
Honourable senators, we have had our eyes opened by experience with this law. The Prime Minister has demonstrated beyond any possibility of doubt that the law is a nullity; that it is meaningless. Therefore, let us redeem ourselves and him by removing this embarrassment from the statute books of our country.
Murray also took the opportunity to highlight the schism in the conservative pool that still exists for some of the Progressive Conservative variety:
This is a sop. This bill that we passed — too readily, in my view — was a sop to the Reform-Alliance base. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it was a sop to that unending fascination they have with importing piecemeal parts of the United States congressional system.
Zing!  One final note from that debate, the big question was posed, in case anyone is wondering about October, 2009:
Hon. Percy E. Downe: Could the Honourable senator advise us whether, in his opinion, there is a requirement for an election in October 2009 if the Canada Elections Act is not amended?

Senator Murray: I think not because, to paraphrase the bill the phrase states that unless there is an early dissolution, the next election willing be held on such a date. There was an earlier dissolution and I would not worry about renting the planes for October 2009 because of Bill C-16.
All in all, an intriguing development out of the Senate.  H/t to Senator McCoy for sharing.