Roundup: Harder seeks sympathy

I have to wonder if Government Leader in the Senate – err, “Government Representative” – Senator Peter Harder is starting to get a bit nervous about the viability of his proposal to reform the Senate rules, as he has started reaching out to sympathetic voices in order to give him some attention on the pages of the newspaper. We’ve seen two such examples in recent days, with a wholly problematic column from John Ibbitson over the weekend in the Globe and Mail, and now some unwarranted praise from Harder’s old friend from their mutual days in the Mulroney government, retired senator Hugh Segal. While Ibbitson’s column was a complete head-scratcher if you know the first thing about the Senate – they don’t need to “prove their value” because they do so constantly (hell, the very first bill of this parliament they needed to send back because the Commons didn’t do their jobs properly and sent over a bill missing a crucial financial schedule, but hey, they passed it in 20 minutes with zero scrutiny). And it was full of praise for the process of Bill C-14 (assisted dying), which is Harder’s go-to example of how things “should” work, which is a problem. And Segal’s offering was pretty much a wholesale endorsement of Harder’s pleading for a “business committee” to do the job he’s apparently unable to do through simple negotiation, so that’s not a real surprise either. But as I’ve written before, the Senate has managed to get bills passed in a relatively timely manner for 150 years without a “Business committee” because its leadership knew how to negotiate with one another, and just because Harder is apparently not up to that task, doesn’t mean we should change the rules to accommodate him.

Meanwhile, there is some definite shenanigans being played by the Conservatives in the Senate in their quest to have an inquiry into the Bombardier loan, and their crying foul when it wasn’t immediately adopted, and wouldn’t you know it, they had a press release ready to go. Conservative Senator Leo Housakos was called out about this over the weekend by Independent Senator Francis Lankin, and while Housakos continues on his quest to try and “prove” that the new appointees are all just Trudeau lackeys in all-but-name, Housakos’ motion may find its match in Senator André Pratte, who wants to expand it to examine other loans so as not to play politics over Bombardier. No doubt we’ll see some added fireworks on this as over the week as the Senate continues its debate.

Good reads:

  • While critics accuse Justin Trudeau of advocating regime change in Syria, he said that in the medium and long-term, Assad can’t be in charge if there is to be peace.
  • While analysis shows there hasn’t been a tidal wave of stayed cases post-Jordan decision, justice ministers will be meeting in Gatineau at the end of the month.
  • Marc Garneau says that the bill to create an air passengers bill of rights will be tabled this spring.
  • Thomas Mulcair is grousing that he and Rona Ambrose weren’t personally invited to join the Vimy commemoration delegation; each sent delegates instead.
  • Health Canada is turning to Facebook ads to help find Indigenous children in need of better publicly funded services.
  • Here are some details likely in the marijuana legalization bill that is to be tabled on Thursday.
  • Documents show that the National Research Council spent $8 million on new laptops alone after the 2014 Chinese hack of their system.
  • Liberal MPs have held events with a Christian group that claims Muslims want to convert the whole world; they’ve previously done videos with Kellie Leitch.
  • The Federal Court will hear the NDP satellite offices challenge this summer, while the Federal Court of Appeal has rejected the NDP’s “expert” affidavit on the matter.
  • CBSA is still talking about reducing instances of immigration detention, but still doesn’t have concrete plans.
  • Mounties are getting restive over a pay package seen as inadequate, and while their collective bargaining legislation remains in limbo.
  • PSAC’s president talks to the Citizen about the trouble they’re having with hiring millennials, but doesn’t look at their own culpability with the problems.
  • Despite rumours that Kevin O’Leary might seek David Tilson’s seat, Tilson has told O’Leary directly that he’s not going anywhere.
  • Retired Senator (and Conservative den mother) Marjory LeBreton talks about why she’s organizing for Kevin O’Leary.
  • O’Leary apparently warned Charles Sousa he would target Ontario in his campaign, while Maclean’s looks into the flop that was O’Leary Funds Management.
  • Andrew Saxton whines to iPolitics that the media is biased against the Conservatives. Oh, muffin…
  • Retired MP and avid pro-lifer Maurice Vellacott is urging social conservatives to vote for Brad Trost or Pierre Lemieux instead of Andrew Scheer.
  • Colby Cosh takes on the ungainly four faces on the sesquicentennial $10 bank note.
  • Andrew Coyne looks askance at some Conservative tax reform proposals, and makes a couple of suggestions of his own.
  • Paul Wells digs into the Naylor report on science funding, and points to where it’s a problem for the current government.

Odds and ends:

The Gargoyle returns, and looks at Trudeau’s comments on North Korea and concern over opposition in the Senate.

If you use the Konami Code on the Bank of Canada’s site for the sesquicentennial banknote, a surprise happens.

2 thoughts on “Roundup: Harder seeks sympathy

  1. I dislike Harder almost as much as you do, but isn’t it taking things too far to accuse him of incompetence? It seems to me that the Conservative opposition has no incentive to reach agreements with Harder, and it’s therefore unsurprising that he’s failed to do so. By repeatedly adjourning debates, they can slow down the government’s legislative program while making Harder appear dictatorial when he fires back with threats of rule amendments. I just don’t know how he’s supposed to respond–should he volunteer to accept opposition amendments to bills? offer to drop certain bills from consideration altogether? champion public bills introduced by Conservative senators? You’re right that this hasn’t been an issue in previous Parliaments.

    I guess I just don’t like the general structure of the Senate’s business-management rules. It appears to take almost no effort for senators to adjourn an item of business, enabling a lazy approach to opposition and scrutiny. I prefer the orderly, structured, rigorous debates of the House of Lords, and I see a business committee as one way of getting us there, although it’s not clear how true “independents” could fairly be represented on it. (I know you always resist comparisons with the UK, but I think there’s ample evidence that the Senate–unlike the Commons–can function as a proper debating chamber when it chooses to.)

    • As I explored more in last week’s Loonie Politics column, he hasn’t done anything to move legislation forward, either with negotiation or the procedural tools available at his disposal, which makes his protests hollow, and why I have my doubts about his competence in the role assigned to him.

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