In defence of Stephen Harper’s new Senate appointments

·Politics Reporter

It's not surprising that most in the media aren't defending Stephen Harper's appointment of seven new senators.

After all, Harper has, in the past, railed against former prime ministers for using the senate as a figurative golden handshake for friends and insiders.

But is Stephen Harper a hypocrite or are these recent round of appointments a means to an end?

Call me an optimist but I'm predicting it's a means to an end.

Since coming to power in early 2006, Harper has named 46 Conservative senators who all pledged to support the government in its efforts to reform the Senate.

The Harper gang justified the appointments by telling us they needed a majority in the upper house to pass a reform bill legislating senate term limits and elections.

That legislation is currently at second reading in the House of Commons and will shortly make its way to the Senate.

While the Conservatives have had an absolute majority in the senate since December 2010, it still might not be enough to pass the reform bill.

As reported in a June 2011 PostMedia News report, not all Conservative senators - including some of Harper's appointees - back the government's senate reform agenda.

"There are a lot of unintended consequences from an elected Senate," Conservative senator Michael MacDonald told Postmedia News.

"(Not only) in terms of its relationship . . . with the House of Commons, its relationship with the government of the day and the relationship of the (senators) with their own provincial governments. These things have to be looked at because... the long-term implications are pretty significant."

Last year, Conservative senator Richard Neufeld spoke out in the senate against the government's agenda. He said that before arriving in the Senate, he believed senators should be elected, but now, "I am not sure that an elected Senate is the way to go."

As a result of the dissenting opinions within the Conservative caucus, Harper needs to continue building on his Senate majority and appoint more Conservatives to ensure the reform bill can can pass.

"Senate reform is a long-standing commitment of the Government and the Conservative party. The status-quo in the Senate, where senators have no democratic mandate from Canadians and can serve terms of up to forty-five years, is unacceptable," Kate Davis, communications director for the Minister of State (Democratic Reform), told Yahoo! Canada News in an email, Monday.

"These new senators support our commitment to make the Senate more democratic, accountable and representative of Canadians — including our legislation to limit Senate terms."

Ultimately, however, time will tell if Harper is a hypocrite or a hero of the senate reform movement.