Cornwall ON – The Liberals are upset that the government will use Conservative senators to delay or block a private members bill that would require all future Supreme Court judges to be bilingual. Outside of the fact that it is simply a bad bill, the Liberals also have a very short memory.
“It’s not proper for the appointed Senate to ignore a bill that the elected House of Commons sent to us eight months ago.” (Liberal Senator Claudette Tardif)
While Senator Tardif can be excused for a lack of institutional memory; she has only been a senator since Paul Martin appointed her in 2005, the anguish expressed by the Liberals doesn’t reflect their past history when they had no problem blocking or delaying the will of the House.
For example, in the late 1980’s, when the Conservatives had a very strong majority in the House, the Liberal senators blocked and tied up legislation several times. I am personally familiar with two of these Liberal attempts when they decided to block immigration legislation passed by the House of Commons. The first C-55 in 1987 was a major overhaul of the refugee determination system. The Liberals backed by the immigration industry vigorously opposed it and blocked it in the Senate. Incidentally this legislation introduced the safe third country concept which at that time the Liberals opposed. The safe third country concept would be reintroduced by the Liberals in 2002 and came into effect in 2004.
The second bill, also in 1987 was C-84 “The Refugee Deterrents and Deterrents and Detention Bill” which was emergency legislation aimed at stopping boat arrivals. That was also tied up by the Liberals in the Senate for a year.
Another good example was the legislation to introduce the GST which was blocked by the Liberal senators in 1990. In order to get it passed Mulroney had to appoint 8 new senators using an obscure clause in the 1867 Constitution Act.
It seems many in the media also have a short memory when it comes to Liberal senators blocking the will of elected Conservative governments. They have bought into the opposition parties spin that this is a most unusual thing to happen. A few more examples of Liberal Senators blocking the will of the House are listed on the Senate of Canada web site. This includes the following information:
“During the latter 1980’s and the 1990’s, the Senate became more active in formally opposing and amending Commons legislation. Among the more controversial bills which led to confrontation between the Senate and House of Commons were the following: (i) in 1985, Bill C-11, the Borrowing Authority Bill; (ii) in 1986, Bill C-67, the “gating” amendments proposed to the Penitentiary Act; (iii) in 1987, Bill C-22, the Drug Patent Bill and Bill C-84, the Immigration Bill; (iv) in 1988, Bill C-60, the Copyright Bill, Bill C-103, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Bill and Bill C-130, the Free Trade Bill; (v) in 1989, Bill C-21, the Unemployment Insurance Act amendments; (vi) in 1990, Bill C-28, the “clawback” Income Tax Bill and Bill C-62, the Goods and Services Tax;(vii) in 1991, Bill C-43, the Abortion Bill, which was defeated at third reading; (viii) in 1996, Bill C-28, the Lester B. Pearson International Airport Bill, which was also defeated at third reading; and, (ix) in 1998, Bill C-220, the profit from authorship respecting a crime Bill, which was defeated at report stage.”
The Liberals can weep about Tory senators blocking or defeating bills, but they should first look in the mirror before whining in public.