By a count of 51-49 -- with five PCs or independents still complicating the count -- the Conservatives eke into a controlling position and the power to recast all the study committees in their image.Liberal senators have been blocking or eviscerating legislation in Senate committees, including bills that have all-party support in the House of Commons, as if they still form the government. By proroguing Parliament and appointing Conservatives to five vacant Senate seats, Conservatives now have a plurality in the Senate and can form a majority on obstructionist Senate committees. That's the way it works, folks - the government gets to govern. If Liberals don't like that situation, then they are free to bring the government down in a confidence vote. Go ahead, I dare you.
The Harper government now has a clear path to follow toward an effective government co-ordinated between both houses of Parliament.
Meanwhile, the howling about Harper's "patronage" appointments packing the Senate with Tory bagmen begins. In the same column, for example, Don Martin slips in these snide references:
Please. Who do critics expect Harper to appoint - Liberals? Dippers? Elizabeth May? For years Harper refused to fill vacant seats until much-needed Senate reform happened. That proved to be impossible in the current political climate, and the Liberal opposition used its historical majority of unappointed Liberal hacks, "pals" of former Liberal Prime Ministers, to obstruct the government's agenda. Harper finally accepted the need to appoint Tories to the Senate and work within the system to advance the government's legislation. That's how the system works - it's pretty rich for the Liberals to complain when they played it like a violin for years and have no intention of changing it.
The appointments were wearily predictable, nobody offsetting the pedigree of the bunch like the surprise of former NHL coach Jacques Demers' appointment last summer.
With this final patronage stuffing, that vilified, Liberal-controlled, obstructionist, soft-on-crime Senate enters the history books.
If we're sitting here a year from now and there's no eight-year limit on appointments, without any serious progress toward an elected Senate, the Conservatives will shoulder the blame.
Then we'll know that the only reform implemented by Stephen Harper's well-rewarded pals was to replace politically appointed Liberals with Conservative favourites.
Furthermore, I find it hard to fault the choices Harper has made. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu is the founding president of the Murdered or Missing Persons Families Association and co-founder of a centre for abused women and a summer camp for underprivileged children. Bob Runciman was a cabinet minister under three Ontario premiers. Vim Kochhar founded the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons, is on the board of directors of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and is chair of the Canadian Paralympic Foundation. Beth Marshall spent 23 years in the Newfoundland civil service and 10 years as Newfoundland's Auditor General as well as being elected to the provincial legislature. Rose-May Poirier has served in the New Brunswick legislative assembly since 1999, during which time she has been minister of human resources, minister of local government and minister responsible for aboriginal affairs.
All of these new Senators have had successful careers in public service or have made outstanding contributions to their communities. Tory bagmen and favourites of the PM? Hardly. Yes, they are all Conservatives, but what do critics expect them to be? In the absence of an elected Senate, or outright abolition of the upper house, all five of these appointments are worthy candidates to sit in the Red Chamber.