Despite growing pressure, don’t expect Stephen Harper to appoint any new senators

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

Don't expect any new Senate appointments any time soon.

Last August — at the on-set of the Senate expense scandal — Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the Globe and Mail, that he wouldn't be appointing any new senators despite the growing number of vacancies.

"Obviously, we’ll keep an eye on whether the legislation passed by the elected House is able to keep moving," Harper said at the time. "

"As long as it is, I have no immediate plans to do so."

Now, a year later, with even more vacancies, court cases pending for suspended senators Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy and a Supreme Court ruling that all but quashes Harper's dreams of senate reform, the Prime Minister's Office claims that nothing has changed.

"We have no immediate plans to do so," PMO spokesperson Carl Vallée told Yahoo Canada News, noting that what Harper told the Globe and Mail, in 2013, is "still valid."

[ Related: Nigel Wright, Harper's ex-chief of staff, returns to Onex ]

The restating of the PMO's position comes as the debate about appointing Senators is heating-up in our nation's capital.

Thanks to retirements and resignations, there are currently 13 vacancies in the upper chamber; by the time the next election roles around, there could be as many as 17.

Over the past several months, academics and constitutional experts, alike, have argued whether or not Harper is even required to appoint more senators.

There doesn't seem to be a consensus.

[ Related: The long shadow of Mike Duffy, senator of Cavendish ]

But now, according to the National Post's John Ivison, the current senators want some more company.

"The unbearable stress of working a punishing three months of every year is taking its toll on the Conservative Senate caucus," Ivison sarcastically wrote in his column on Friday evening.

"Senators are reportedly lobbying the Prime Minister for reinforcements to fill the 13 vacancies because the workload is becoming a problem."

Last week, as explained by CBC News, outgoing Prince Edward Island Senator Catherine Callbeck called on the prime minister to name her replacement right away.

With her resignation and Duffy's suspension, P.E.I. is only represented by two Senators.

"I would like to see somebody replace me right away," said Callbeck, who reached the senate's mandatory retirement age of 75 last week.

"The prime minister has said, a while ago, that he's not going to be naming new senators. There'd be less voice in the Senate on behalf of Islanders, putting forth their views on all the issues that affect us."

[ Related: ‘The world is a mess,’ and that’s good news for Stephen Harper’s re-election hopes ]

P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz, on the other hand, told the Guardian newspaper, that pushing Harper to appoint a senator is not really a priority for him.

"The Supreme Court of Canada has said that in order to (reform or abolish the Senate) he needs to sit down with the provinces, and we know that he hasn’t," Ghiz, a Liberal premier, told the newspaper.

"When I put all those facts out in front, if I spend any time really thinking about the Senate, then I’m wasting my time. So, for me, it’s really about waiting for a new government to come in and finding out what they’re going to do with the Senate, and until then, I’ve got my job to do as premier."

Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!