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The Telegram

Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed five people to the Senate, filling two vacancies in Ontario, and one each in Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

“It is a pleasure to announce the appointment of these five distinguished Canadians to the Senate of Canada,” Harper said in the statement. “Their broad range of experience and dedication to community will further strengthen the institution and benefit the entire country.”

Early on, it was difficult to establish whether the successful appointees were politically connected.

But the appointments set some wheels in motion here.

Ethel Cochrane, one of this province’s senators, is set to turn 75 — retirement age for senators — on Sept. 23. She is one of only two senators from this province who was not a politician when she was appointed — the other being former Liberal backroom operative George Furey, meaning the Upper Chamber has politicians like George Baker, Norm Doyle, Beth Marshall and Fabian Manning.

What would make a good senator? Almost anyone would like the ridiculously large salary — followed by a spectacular pension — the ability to nap in the Red Chamber or participate in debate if you so choose, and the raft of entitlements and benefits that accrue to members charged with offering up sober second thought.

So, who would be the perfect choice?

Perhaps someone who kept careful track of Canadian political affairs at the national, provincial and municipal level on a virtually full-time basis. Someone able to grasp complex and technical issues, not only in terms of their specific internal complexities, but in their overall implications to the country at large. Someone with a long track record and experience in watching politics under a series of provincial premiers and opposing federal administrations.

Someone dedicated to improving the country and publicly representing the issues of their region.

Someone like, oh, a longtime editorial writer for a provincial daily newspaper.

After all, editorial writing is almost the senate of journalism — it couldn’t help but be a perfect fit.

I can almost feel the soft plush of the red seats, hear the gentle waft of tired, retreaded political invective across the storied Senate floor, almost taste the low-cost meals at the parliamentary restaurants. “No, no, really, I honestly couldn’t eat another bite. Maybe a wafer-thin mint?” The great, wide seats at the front of the plane … your own armrests, always.

Umm. Sorry. Got carried away. Just a little skinny-dipping in the pool of naked self-interest.

And self-interest in all its forms is, perhaps, the largest reason why change will be a long, long time coming to the Senate monolith.

Of course, Prime Minister Harper has promised change for years.

But one of the last senators appointed in this province was picked because of his broad range of experience as a failed Conservative candidate, a politically one-sided skill set that most editorialists lack. Another was a former Conservative MP, the third a former provincial Tory.

In other words, a different kind of self-interest.

Someone will win the Newfoundland Senate seat set-for-life lottery.

Bet you can guess their politics already.

Organizations: Senate of Canada, Upper Chamber, Red Chamber Conservative MP

Geographic location: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia New Brunswick

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  • Scott Free
    September 10, 2012 - 08:31

    What's all the bafflegab about? Sure Proroguie Steve has infact implemented change in appointing deadwood to the Senate; they're now Tory bobbleheads, rewarded for their blind faith allegiance to the Con Party of Canada. They used to be Liberal retreads.

  • Ed Power
    September 10, 2012 - 07:41

    So, Carl, if we were to hold these expensive, unconstitutional and completely uneccessary elections, and we were to elect someone opposed to the PM and his political agenda, how likely is it that Mr. Harper would acknowledge the democratic choice and appoint the winner to the Senate? I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a Liberal, NDP or other winner to get ushered into the Senate. Senate reform was a major policy issue while Harper sat on the Opposition benches but, when he assumed the power to reward the party faithful and failed Conservative candidates, he was only too happy to appoint them to the Senate - in Fabian Mannings case, twice. How's that for respecting the will of the people? We elected Manning once, and subsequently rejected him - quite deservedly - twice, and he still ends up in the Senate. Right. Harper wants to "give away his power to appoint Senators...."

    • Carl
      September 10, 2012 - 14:58

      Ed, I think it is pretty likely that Prime Minister Harper will accept the outcome of provincial Senate elections, which are not unconstitutional, and need not be expensive if conducted alongside provincial general elections, as is already done in other provinces. After all, I'm sure he knew when he introduced legislation calling on the provinces to hold Senate elections that non-Conservatives might win some of the seats. But my main point is that if we never take him up on his offer to respect provincial Senate elections, then we can't really criticize him for not reforming the Senate. If we take him up on it and he reneges, then we can criticize him. But at this point, the ball is clearly in the provinces' court.

  • Carl
    September 08, 2012 - 22:29

    It should be pointed out that the PM Harper has been trying to give away his power to appoint Senators ever since he became PM. The reason we Newfoundlanders cannot elect our Senators today is that our provincial government refuses to hold provincial Senatorial elections as the PM has requested all provinces to do.

  • W McLean
    September 08, 2012 - 14:59

    Umm... who is the "I"? Column and editorial get switched in layout?

  • james
    September 08, 2012 - 11:00

    once again we have a peek inside the old age home, OOPS ! i meant the senate. what a waste of taxpayers money to have these old guys/gals sitting there collecting a fat salary at our expence. if we the taxpayers have to pay these people then we should have a say who sits in this upper chamber. ELECTED SENATE !