View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Senate Change Has arrived After Trudeau Play – Jan 29, 2014

Dr. EvilCFN – Justin Trudeau probably shocked his Senate caucus colleagues more than the voting public today when he announced he was removing Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus, thereby limiting the caucus to elected members of parliament. For the most part I don’t think the public cares one way or another how a senator labels themselves, nor after the Senate scandal do they have much use for any of them.

However, it was a bold move on Trudeau’s part and certainly raised his profile in the media for the next few days. But there is one immediate question that comes to mind, why now?  Why not make the announcement at the upcoming Liberal policy convention in March?

Why the sudden rush to get this announcement out the door now? If it was a well thought out political maneuver, surely the Liberal brain trust would have anticipated the need to make changes to the party constitution and submitted those proposals in time to be voted on in March.

It has been done in such a rush that no one can figure out how the upper house will work without an official opposition. No one can figure out how the budget will be divided or offices such as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate staffed. How will Senate committees function? They are made up of representatives based on their party’s numbers in the Senate.

Is this a pre-emptive move on Trudeau’s part in anticipation of some very negative findings by the Auditor General who is presently auditing a number of senator’s expenses? Certainly this move would cover him from having to throw senators out of the caucus just prior to an election. Eventually the dust will settle and the real reason for this move will become evident, but for now Trudeau is in the limelight and he will have the Conservatives scrambling and perhaps the NDP as well.

On a positive note, perhaps the chamber of sober second thought will return to that role and we will see a decrease in the partisanship we have seen there in recent years. What a switch to have senators study legislation strictly on its merits without support being based solely on which party appointed them.

It will also be interesting to see how the Conservative Senate caucus responds. How many of them will decide they would now like to become independent like their former Liberal colleagues? If enough Conservative senators decide to sit as independents it will change the dynamics of getting legislation through the upper house. The government side would be faced with convincing individual senators of the merits of legislation, rather than being able to demand loyalty to pass legislation.

Trudeau has started the ball rolling downhill and it will gather speed over the next few weeks and months, but outside of the immediate publicity and time spent in front of the cameras, how well was this move thought out? What are the long term repercussions, both good and bad? The truth is no one including Trudeau knows and we will only find that out down the road and closer to the next election.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails. To sponsor this column please  email!

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  1. Talking about our dysfunctional group of politicians lets all play a variation of Where’s WALDO

    Let us name it Where is MP Guy Lauzon??

    While MP Julie Fantino makes threatening noises at Canadian Veterans yesterday
    We see and hear NOTHING from our local MP who when the Afghan War was raging
    posted Support our Troops signs everywhere.
    NOW when you sit down and write him a letter about the Veterans Centre closings
    MP Guy Lauzon ignores the question and sends back some PMO “talking Points”
    I am sorry but this makes me so very angry at a time when at least EIGHT Veterans
    have taken their own lives in under two Months
    PLease call his office and raise..HELL
    ps it would only be piling on to mention his non role in Cornwall Tanks affair

  2. Fantino has apologized for being an asshat, but has refused to check into asshat rehab. He’s a Rob Ford kinda guy.

  3. Listening to and reading about all the fallout re Trudeau’s Senate “bombshell” today, it seems to be mostly positive.The Cons and Dippers don’t know whether to poop or go blind! The timing seems a little suspect to me because of the soon to be released audit, but over all it was brilliant.

  4. Stephen J Harper 2006: I pledge to reform the Senate….by stuffing it with the likes of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau
    Pierre (“the reality is”) Poilievre (video above): Senator Duffy shows leadership.

  5. After Tim Hudak and Rob Anders, Poilievre has to be the third most repulsive Canadian politician still in office.

  6. @ Furtz That’s a very short list. Several on the Great Reformer’s front bench could be miffed they were not on the list, don’t you think? Especially the Great Reformer himself.

  7. Hey PJ. You must admit that Fantino is charming fellow.

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