PM prepared to stack Senate so Tories can make changes
Red Chamber reform key part of platform
October 16, 2008
CALGARY -- Newly re-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper served notice yesterday that he will stack the Senate with Tories if necessary to push through democratic reforms of the chamber.

Mr. Harper told reporters in Calgary that the Conservatives are serious about promised changes to the Senate - which include elections and eight-year fixed terms - and will fill it with new Tory appointments to push through reforms if the Liberal majority there opposes them.

"We don't believe an unelected body should in anyway be blocking an elected body," he told a news conference in Calgary.

There are 16 vacancies in the Senate because Mr. Harper has let retirements go unfilled, but the Liberals still dominate with 59 unelected senators in the 105-seat chamber.

"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," he said.

"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."

The Tories have complained about Liberals in the Senate obstructing their ideas.

By January of 2010, there will be 31 vacancies in the Senate and the Liberal caucus will be reduced by then to fewer than 50 seats in the chamber. Mr. Harper could theoretically appoint 31 senators to one-year terms and use that strength to push through whatever changes were deemed necessary.

The recent Conservative platform calls for either reforming or abolishing the Senate. The program says that, as a minimum, the Conservatives would reintroduce the eight-year fixed-term proposal, allow for nominees to be selected by voters and apply the same ethics rules to senators that currently apply to MPs.

During his first term, Mr. Harper appointed Michael Fortier to the Senate to beef up his party's ministerial contingent from Quebec. Mr. Fortier has since resigned and was defeated Tuesday in his bid to become an MP. The Prime Minister also appointed Bert Brown, who won a special election in Alberta.