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.
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