Why Liberal Senators Are Not So Liberal Anymore

On January 29th, 2014, Justin Trudeau, federal Liberal Party leader emerged from a meeting with his Senate caucus members and announced that these 32 senators would no longer be Liberal senators; that they would no longer be a part of the National Liberal Caucus – which is typically composed of both elected Liberal members of parliament and appointed Liberal senators. Instead senators would now sit as independents in the Upper Chamber, would not attend the weekly Liberal caucus meetings and would not be allowed to help party fundraising efforts. Funnily enough though, these senators would still be members of the Liberal party- there was no getting around that!

Mr. Trudeau justified his surprising decision saying that he wants the Senate to be a non-partisan House of parliament, independent of the prime minister’s (and supposedly other party leaders’) reach, to remove party politics from the troubled Upper Chamber.

“If the Senate serves a purpose at all,” Mr. Trudeau said, “it is to act as a check on the extraordinary power of the prime minister and his office, especially in a majority government” and that party structures “interferes with this responsibility.”

Of course, we know from previous posts on the Senate, that Mr. Harper’s government has been trying to reform the Senate and is now awaiting a response to the government’s reference case from the Supreme Court of Canada to determine how and whether the government can make its proposed changes. At the same time, Mr. Harper has increased the number of Conservative senators by filling vacancies via appointment.

But, what does Mr. Trudeau hope to accomplish with this move? Continue reading

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The Problem with the Nadon Appointment

Along with senators, cabinet ministers, and really, the governor general, the prime minister acting on behalf of the government also appoints judges to various levels of the judicial system through the Governor In Council process (which we will get into at another time). The most important of these judicial appointments are the ones to the Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court of the land, the final court of appeal and the interpreter of the Constitution.

By why all the fuss with this appointment? What makes this one any different than previous appointments? That is what we will be talking about in this post. Continue reading

Senate scandal Update – November 3rd

A few weeks ago, I wrote, a post outlining the Senate expense scandal. There, I briefly outlined the issue by stating that the problem was essentially about senators making inappropriate claims for housing allowances and other expenses.

Since then, the situation has escalated with the Conservatives (Tories) in the senate introducing a motion to suspend senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin without pay and without access to benefits. This debate of the motion has played out over the past week and a half with intense media coverage and is expected to continue into the week of November 4th,.  The situation has hung over the Conservative party convention that took place this past weekend.  (As an aside, this convention was originally scheduled back in June in Calgary but was cancelled due to the floods, which ravaged much of Alberta.).

Why is this significant? Continue reading

Samara Blog: Party Membership 101

Samara Canada is non-partisan organization which seeks to improve political participation in Canada. Well – respected for various projects and research, Samara is perhaps best known for the series of exit interviews conducted with Members of Parliament (MPs) culminating is several fascinating reports about the role of MPs and how MPs see their work.

Samara’s blog also has interesting posts and guest bloggers who write on a variety of lively topics. The most recent post is on “Party Membership 101,” part of a series on political parties. You can check out the 101 entry here and the rest of the political parties series here.

What’s the deal with the Canadian Senate Scandal?

This post comes ahead of a tutorial on the Senate, part of a series on the branches of government. With the Senate expense scandal likely to remain part of the news cycle until such another major event pushes it to the back burner, I thought it important to explain what all of the fuss is about for those who aren’t familiar with the issues surrounding this parliamentary body and all the fuss with it.

The Senate is quite a source of controversy on a good day, never mind when the actions of senators make headlines. In fact, it could be argued that controversy is at the foundation of this chamber. The Senate is one of three parliamentary institutions at the federal level along with the House of Commons and the Crown as we’ve learned in previous tutorials. Continue reading

Leadership Conventions

You may have noticed over the past few months (as of this posting) that there has been many news stories about leadership races. There is a federal leadership campaign underway with the Liberal party, there is a provincial leadership campaign for the Liberals in Ontario, one for the NDP in Saskatchewan, and Liberals in Manitoba.

As such, I thought that a primer on leadership conventions would make a good post… Continue reading

The Politics of Spin

Last post, we gave a brief run-down of how to look at various medium and be critical of what information you are given.

Briefly mentioned too, was a reference to information given by individuals and groups (particularly political leaders).

This post is going to give you a brief overview of a tool used by political leaders and others in public relations: spin. Continue reading