I was hoping that the last election would return a minority government – so much more interesting than a majority government. Well, it was not to be, and now The Spaniel heads a majority government. But this government seems dead set on being incredibly activist in reforming Canadian political institutions. The government has put electoral reform and senate reform high on their agenda. The two issues are linked because the Tories hold a Senate majority, which they threaten to use to derail the Liberals’ legislative program. This might be a bluff, but the Conservatives’ demand that Liberals put electoral reform to a referendum has a populist appeal to it — and I suspect the Grits know that. This might be enough to embolden the Conservatives to block electoral reform in the Senate.
The difficulty that the Conservatives confront is that Harper left 22 Senate seats vacant (a bit of an oversight that); fill these seats with Liberals appointees and the Conservatives’ majority in the upper house disappears. Complicating things even further is that The Spaniel cast Liberal Senators out of caucus this past term. Theoretically, then, Liberal Senators (or are they now Senate Liberals?) are independent of party discipline. And to top it all off The Spaniel promises to filter senate nominees through a non-partisan committee. It would sure be embarrassing if every one of the The Spaniel’s “non-partisan” senate appointees voted the Liberal line vote after vote. (Does anybody else have the sense that Canadian politicians are sort of making this up as they go along?)
Anyway, over the next couple of blog posts, I’ll consider the strategic implications of electoral and senate reform. Should be an interesting 5 years.