Reform Senate or we'll appoint Conservatives, Harper warns
Upper chamber will reflect Tory agenda if bid to make it elected fails, PM vows
Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, October 16, 2008

CALGARY - Prime Minister Stephen Harper said yesterday he is ready to start appointing new senators to reflect his Conservative agenda if the Liberal-dominated upper House continues to be a thorn in the government's side.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference the morning after his election victory, Mr. Harper reiterated that his party would like to abolish the Senate if his proposed changes to the Red Chamber don't pass.

He said he hopes to appoint senators through his proposal to have provinces nominate candidates chosen by voters. But if that doesn't happen, he is prepared to appoint his own choices to correct what he sees as a Liberal bias in the Red Chamber.

"We don't believe an unelected body should in any way be blocking an elected body," Mr. Harper said. "I have held off for a very long time in naming senators.

"That said, I do not believe it is justified that the Senate would continue to be dominated by a party that did not win two consecutive elections. So look, we are looking for the opportunity to elect senators, but if at some point it becomes clear some senators are not going to be elected, the government will name senators to ensure that the elected will of the House of Commons and the people of Canada is reflected in the Senate."

During the coming days, the prime minister will also put together a new cabinet for the return of Parliament, which will reconvene next month.

Mr. Harper caused controversy after the last election when he appointed Michael Fortier to the Senate and named him public works minister and the party's Montreal lieutenant. However, the prime minister made it clear yesterday he will not appoint any senators to his cabinet.

Meanwhile, Mr. Harper said he is willing to bury the hatchet with Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams, whose Anything But Conservative campaign wiped the Conservatives off the map in that province.

"We're obviously disappointed with the results there. That said, I have no trouble saying (let) bygones be bygones. As many of you know, I constructed an entire party out of people who once opposed me."Mr. Harper said he was "pleased" with the results of the election and that his party made important breakthroughs, especially among female voters and in the battleground areas of Toronto and Vancouver.

His party is returning to the House of Commons with 143 MPs, up from the 127 it had when Parliament was dissolved. Mr. Harper's Conservatives captured 37.6 per cent of the popular vote, compared to the Liberals' 26.2 per cent. The NDP garnered 18.2 per cent of the vote, good for 37 seats, while the Bloc Québécois, which only runs in Quebec, captured 50 seats with 10 per cent of the popular vote nationally.