Attack ads in perspective

  Niagara Falls, Ontario,
Monday, June 4, 2007
by: Joe Hueglin

The new Conservative Party's attack ads (1) have two purposes: to build public perception that Liberal Leader Dion is ineffectual and that reshaping the Senate is a positive action. This messaging that the Liberal majority in the Senate is holding up what ought to be done may well be counterproductive.

Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick oppose unilateral action by the federal government on Bill C-43 and Bill S-4. Ontario Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Maria Bountrogianni has stated "Together, the inevitable changes occasioned by these pieces of legislation would fundamentally alter the functioning of Parliament by changing the essential character of the Senate. Yet the federal government introduced legislation without meaningfully consulting provinces or obtaining provincial consent." (2)


In October 1995 twenty "New Confederation proposals" were presented by Reform Party Leader Preston Manning and then unity critic Stephen Harper, one of them being "All future appointments to the Senate would be by means of elections ". Harper was of the opinion "Reform's proposals can be accomplished without re-opening old constitutional wounds". It was at that time as it is today his position that "New Confederation proposals simply require a federal government that is willing to act."(3)

His government is most certainly willing to act to bring about what the Fathers of Confederation purposely avoided because "In their opinion [the Fathers of Confederation], both chambers would see themselves as popular assemblies capable of reflecting the will of the people -- a recipe for conflict and stalemate." (4)

Will the ads achieve their goals of driving down support for Dion while gaining it for elected Senators with limited terms in office? The first will be judged by the results of public opinion polls. The second, not likely with the governments of both Ontario and Quebec opposed and with most peoples holding the view of B.C.'s intergovernmental relations minister that "Senate reform is not a high priority". (2)


Joe Hueglin

1. Not a

2. Bryden, Joan, Ontario and Quebec nix Senate reform without provincial consent (pdf) June 1, 2007, MacLeans Magazne


3. Reform presents New Confederation proposals (pdf) October 15, 1995 The Reform party of Canada


4. The Senate of Canada, The Canadian Senate in Focus 1867-2001, May 2001, Parliament of Canada


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