Harper could be the new King—the Mackenzie King of partisan senate appointments, that is.
Charles Tupper was Prime Minister for two months and he appointed one senator. John Turner was Prime Minister for less than three months and he appointed three senators. Joe Clark was Prime Minister for nine months and he appointed 11 senators. These men have three things in common:
1) They were all Prime Ministers of Canada (well duh!);
2) They had some of the shortest tenures of being Prime Minister;
3) Drum roll please, they are the only Prime Ministers to have solely appointed senators belonging to their own party.
Kim Campbell, Prime Minister for only four months, has the virtue of being neither partisan nor bi-partisan in her senate appointments, since she made zero during her tenure.
All other Prime Ministers appointed at least one opposition or independent senator in their time. Although, sometimes, as was the case with Mackenzie King, that independent was a “Liberal-Independent”. But at least the word independent was there.
All appointments made by our current Prime Minister are Conservative—blue and blue. Stephen Harper has appointed 59 senators in his time, and every last one of them has been good ol’ Harper Conservatives (like Duffy, Wallin, and Brazeau). With 11 vacancies and a grand total of 17 to be filled by the end of 2014 (with upcoming retirements), Conservative senators have been calling for him to make his move and fill the seats (presumably with more like them). However, former senator Hugh Segal suggests Harper use these seats to make the Senate a different place and send a message by finally appointing political independents or people from the opposition parties.
By the end of the year, about 16% of the seats in the Senate will be vacant, and these vacancies will disproportionately affect some parts of Canada more than others. Those who will suffer greatly are Manitoba, PEI, and the Liberal Party. With only 32 Independent Liberal Senators and 6 Independents left—three of whom are disgraced conservatives at the heart of the senate expense scandal—even if Stephen Harper loses the election next year without major Senate reform, or bi-partisan appointments, this Prime Minister may leave a lasting mark on our political system which will shape it for years to come.
This hasn’t been seen since Mackenzie King appointed 102 members of his own party to the senate over his twenty two year tenure as Prime Minister (out of 103 total appointments). Could it be that Harper secretly idolizes Canada’s longest serving Prime Minister, despite King being a Liberal and the arch nemesis to Harper’s forebearer, John Diefenbaker? Perhaps Harper seeks to be more of King’s heir than Diefenbaker’s. After all, King had longevity, despite being immensely unpopular, boring, and robotic—not entirely dissimilar to Harper who isn’t all about the warm and fuzzy either. But hey, one of King’s 103 Senate appointments was an “Independent Liberal,” so King still has a better track record than Harper. Let’s see if we can break this eight year streak, and maybe even get an “Independent Conservative” into the Senate.