Monday, May 13, 2019

History of the Senate and Senator Beyak

New Senate (literally: it's the new temporary location in the East Block) 

I'm on the record recently as arguing the new trying-to-be nonpartisan Senate is a good thing and in keeping with its founding principles.  The suspension the other day of Senator Lynn Beyak for her "refusal to remove racist letters about Indigenous people from her website" suggests a new angle to that.

In the old days, when the prime minister appointed his or her loyal supporters to the Senate in exchange for their permanent absolute loyalty, there would have been a demand for Senator Beyak's party leader to boot her out.  And of course whenever a party leader is involved, only two issues matter: what might the issue do to the leader's public standing, and is there a challenge to the leader's authority?

Instead, the Senate seems to have take the grown-up position that they don't need to ask the boss to issue a diktat, they can can consider the issue and take appropriate action as a body.  As they have done.  But it is a bit weird too: the Conservative Party and the Conservative party caucus in the Senate are agreed that we should go back to the old way of prime ministers should go back to the old habit of purely partisan appointments, and yet in this case they let the Senate take the lead -- as if they believe it should be an independent self-managing body.  Cannot have it both ways, one might think.

The recent poll a senator took on attitudes to the Senate changes provoked the Conservatives to complain it is a misspending of public money. Accusing the Senate for spending public money -- on anything -- has always been a pretty safe line of attack. But it's hard to resist thinking the Conservative Senators are also peeved by evidence the poll provides of how unpopular is their party's plan to go back to the old party-hack Senate:
The poll found that only 3.4 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed by Nanos on the phone and online between March 29 and April 1 said future governments should "go back to the previous ways of appointing" senators, while 76.7 per cent said future governments should retain the changes made by the current government.

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