Stephen Harper, Canada’s Commodus, has every reason to throw a temper tantrum. For the first time since his reign began, an authority figure has told him that he can’t do whatever he wants with his dollhouse—our country. Every other time people tried to stop him, he cried to the Governor General, who promptly and staunchly supported him in every case. However, this time the issue is out of the Governor General’s hands, so little Stevie is really screwed.
He is up against the Supreme Court of Canada, which today told him unanimously that he cannot reform the Senate without the consent of 7 of 10 provinces representing at least half of the population of Canada. Worse yet, the SCC confirmed that this is a constitutional issue, and that Harper would therefore have to open the Constitution in order to reform the Senate. For Constitutional rookies out there: reopening the Constitution is about as palatable as ripping out the stitches that hold a person’s neck to its body.
Harper certainly doesn’t want to do that. But that doesn’t mean he supports the ruling. On the contrary, he voiced his displeasure this morning, calling the SCC’s ruling a “decision for the status quo…[which] is supported by virtually no Canadian.” As if to confirm the blindness of his rage, he followed up by saying, “[Senate reform is a step] only the provinces can take. We know that there is no consensus among the provinces on reform, no consensus on abolition, and no desire of anyone to re-open the constitution.” So, to simplify, no one supports the status quo. Except all the people who think it is preferable to maintain the status quo rather than open the Constitution to reform about which no one can agree. So maybe a lot of people actually do support the status quo?
Regardless, Harper reasoned that if he is mad, everyone else must be mad too. “It’s a decision that the vast majority of Canadians will be very disappointed with,” he said. A greater truth hath never been spoken. As the SCC ruling became public, Canadians felt their collective heart stop beating. They have enthusiastically supported Harper’s significant reforms to Old Age Security, environmental protection laws, election laws, and everything else that defined our country. If not Harper, who else could Canadians trust to reform the Senate without listening to public input or looking out for public interests? The list is short, so people became justifiably worried.
What, then, does this mean for Canada’s favourite house, our beloved Senate? It means nothing is going to change for at least a little while. It also means that in order for anything to change in the Senate, whoever is leading our country (long live Harper) will have to confront other issues facing the provinces in order to earn their consent on Senate reform.
It’s a terrible result. It involves far too much problem-solving and open discussion for it to possibly be useful. Whoever embarks on the journey toward Senate reform might just be the stupidest leader in Canadian history. Stay tuned to find out who that will be.
Until then, we can continue to enjoy the perks of the Senate status quo. This means more Duffy, Brazeau, and Wallin than the average Canadian can handle. It means more nights when we laugh so hard that we can’t breath and our ribs start to hurt. It means a broken record blame game in which finger pointing substitutes for consensus-building, and drunken spending sprees substitute for sober second thought. It means that even when Stephen Harper surrenders the crown, there will still be one part of Canada we’ll recognize. Call it nostalgia, but that doesn’t bother me at all.