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Senate shenanigans

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Manitoba NDP MP Pat Martin is trying to embarrass the Conservatives into voting in favour of funding the Senate.

He's opposing the funding for the Senate in the main estimates of the government's budget process. That means nearly $60 million in funding for the Senate will have to be voted on separately rather than as part of the estimates as a whole.

Martin told the Free Press yesterday, "Harper will have to stand and vote to support the Senate!!!"

Even if the vote for Senate funding failed (which is unlikely) the Senate still has about $30 million in statutory funding, or funding that is automatic and doesn't require a vote. But cutting off two-thirds of its money would put a serious dent in Senate activities.

The move comes in a week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government introduced legislation to reform the upper chamber (nine-year term limits and Senate elections) and he has apparently vowed that if he can't reform the Senate he will abolish it (which he can't actually do on his own)

The NDP have long stood for abolishing the Senate and several provincial governments, including Manitoba's, favour that option.

The funding stunt is an interesting political maneuver and one Martin says has shades of Manitoba's political past. Stanley Knowles and J.S. Woodsworth both moved similar motions in their time in Ottawa. Both represented parts of what are now Winnipeg's inner city and overlapped with Martin's riding.

Martin now occupies the office in Centreblock once used by Knowles. That is a step up for the outspoken MP, who before the election had been relegated to an office off the Hill after West Block was shut down for renovations.

Martin's stunt wasn't getting a lot of love in the Twitter-verse however.

One pundit commented that she wondered if Pat Martin knew how ridiculous he sounded while another suggested the more Martin talked, the more he likes the senate.

Ouch.

One Liberal staffer cheekily said "Do you hear that? It's the sound of Pat Martin being struck from every Senator's Xmas card list."

I'm going to guess Martin probably wasn't on many Christmas card lists.

The Senate reform bill – which is a combination of two bills introduced several times during the Conservative minority years which never got debated – is sure to pass the House of Commons but Harper is getting some blowback from his own Senators, many of whom don't like the idea of having to give up their six-figure-salary jobs in under a decade.

What's your take? Reform it? Abolish it? Or keep the Senate the way it is?

-- Mia Rabson / The Capital Chronicles

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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