Roundup: The politics of the Senate reference

The big move by the government yesterday was to send a list of reference questions to the Supreme Court with regards to Senate reform – and yes, abolition. The six questions – more like fifteen with the sub-clauses – come at a time when the notion is being mulled over by the Quebec courts at the behest of the provincial government, and the Supreme Court may opt to hold off on their deliberations until that decision is rendered, so that they can take it into consideration. And then comes the politics behind it all – the government claims this will “speed up” the reform process after years of opposition delay – never mind that this reference process could take up to two years, and the only ones stalling were the government themselves because they never brought their bills forward for debate (not that said bills were actually constitutionally sound). It also buys them time to keep the issue alive for the next election and as a fundraising issue for their base, but also provides them options when it comes to considering next steps, because they may need them if they want to continue this rather foolhardy pursuit. The Liberals are playing the smug game of “We wanted this reference six years ago – thanks for catching up.” And the NDP are accusing the government of “more delay” – even though they simply argue for abolition and give nonsense talking points about how much money they would save if that happened (forgetting of course that all of said “savings” and more would entirely be consumed in the interminable court challenges that would come from flawed legislation that would otherwise be caught in the Senate). And there are the legal arguments – is it really unconstitutional, or is the fact that the Prime Minister is still recommending appointments to the Governor General enough to avoid having to go the route of a constitutional amendment, no matter that they’re ensuring that these appointments are “elected,” and that the “democratic mandate” of these newly empowered Senators will have a tangible – and detrimental – effect on the way our system operates. I argue that the Supreme Court justices aren’t morons and will see a backdoor attempt for what it is and call bullshit. Other constitutional scholars aren’t so sure, and say that according to the letter of the law, it looks just fine. But politics – especially the way our Parliament operates – is more than just the letter of the law. It’s an organic whole, and surely that needs to be taken into consideration when a blatant backdoor proposal designed to get around doing the hard work of constitutional negotiation will have a serious and measurable effect on our democratic process. That has to count for something.

Here’s a look at the history of the British monarchy, and how political its succession is – and why we can’t just treat it as something that doesn’t really concern us, or something that we should let Britain take care of on our behalf.

Thomas Mulcair says that he’s open to the European Union Free Trade Agreement – on certain conditions. I’m guessing it’s another case of “free trade with protectionism!”

Aaron Wherry looks at the PBO’s devotion to Parliament, and the fact that Parliament exists to old the government to account – not just the opposition – plus the circumstances surrounding that Afghanistan report that led to many of the accusations of partisanship. Economist Stephen Gordon looks at the PBO’s legislated mandate, and shows how he has been hampered from fulfilling it.

Ruh-roh! BC NDP leader Adrian Dix has taken exception to Thomas Mulcair’s “Unity bill” on replacing the Clarity Act.

Oh, look – oil companies working in the oil sands want a carbon tax so that they can be competitive and have some kind of price guidelines to reduce emissions. But no, Harper insists that it’s evil! Meanwhile, the Canadian consul in Boston attended a meeting in Portland to try and reassure them about Canadian oil going through pipelines in that are that might be from the oil sands.

Liberal MP Ralph Goodale seems sure that the Conservatives want to gerrymander the electoral boundaries in Saskatchewan, as the proposed new ones will cost them seats.

A body has been found in Thomas Mulcair’s office. Well, in the mural that they’re restoring anyway. And it’s quite the fascinating tale.

Susan Delacourt looks at the fact that fewer lawyers are being elected as MPs these days, and how that reflects the fact that politics is less about laws and more about selling messages these days – and fittingly, we are getting more businesspeople elected instead.

Over in the Liberal leadership race, Justin Trudeau is talking about freeing up backbenchers, even after his father famously called them “nobodies” (though he insists it was about certain MPs being self-important). And his plans include open nominations in all ridings, which is a pretty good plan (not that I agree with all of his ideas).

Here are the three things you should not have missed from last night’s political shows, including a rather ludicrous NDP theory as to why Harper hasn’t moved forward on Senate reform.

And Steve Murray offers some potential future Conservative government ad campaigns. It’s hard to tell which one I like best.