A long time ago, more than 10 years in the past, a nobody named Stephen Harper promised Canada that, if elected to the House of Commons as Leader of the newly formed Conservative Party of Canada, he would reform the Senate. More than 10 years later, having spent almost all that time in the Prime Minister’s Office, Stephen Harper has not followed through on his promise. Perhaps that’s why, desperate for re-election, he is making the promise again.
Harper is set to announce that he will abolish the Senate if his government wins the upcoming federal election. This is a big change from his previous position. Originally, Harper campaigned for an elected Senate with equal representation for each province. Now he’s saying “burn down the house.”
There are good reasons for Harper to make the change. First, there is an election on the horizon, and, thanks to several of Harper’s lousier Senate appointments, Canadians hate the Senate about as much as they hate Harper. Disapproval ratings mirror Taco Bell’s Gordita Supreme four hours after consumption. Second, promising to reform the Senate is a good way to distract from the fact that he has not yet reformed the Senate. Third, it seems like Harper thinks we are stupid. How else can he justify promising us what he has failed to deliver?
A little more than a year has passed since the Supreme Court told the Harper government that it can not unilaterally reform the Senate. “No bother,” he thought, “if I can’t unilaterally reform the Senate, I’ll simply promise to unilaterally reform the Senate.” His promise makes it seem like circumstances have changed, like Harper, up late and busy writing his hockey book, accidentally uncovered some hidden constitutional clause that even the Supreme Court overlooked. It might seem that way, but the funny thing about the Constitution is that it hasn’t changed since 1982. There’s nothing new in there.
Unlike the Constitution, the Senate is full of breaking news. Nigel Wright is set to take the stand at Mike Duffy’s trial, Harper appointee Don Meredith is accused of engaging in sexual relations with a 16 year old, and the RCMP is investigating the legitimacy of several sitting Senators’ expense claims. The place stinks worse than old Camembert rotting on broken crackers.
Unfortunately for Harper, his promise stinks as much.