Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/8/2009 (4415 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Don Plett, the Manitoba man credited as being one of the masterminds behind the successful effort to unite Canada's political right, could soon need new business cards.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is preparing to reward some of his longest-serving and most loyal political operatives with Senate appointments that could come as early as this week, Canwest News Service has learned.
Plett, a plumber from Landmark, Man. and the longtime president of the Conservative Party, is among a pack of eight Senate appointees that includes Doug Finley, who has been the political master strategist for the Conservative party in its first four general elections, and Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, who was Harper's second-longest serving aide before her retirement this summer.
Plett, 59, will fill the vacant senate seat in Manitoba, left open in July when Independent Mira Spivak stepped down when she reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
Plett was in Ottawa for meetings this week but returned to Manitoba Wednesday. He has not acknowledged his appointment, saying he is still the president of the Conservative Party of Canada.
"I was elected to serve as president," he said Wednesday.
Plett is a lifelong resident of Landmark, where he made his mark as a local businessman running his family's multi-generational plumbing and heating business. He also owned a land development company and a custom truck, trailer and car wash.
He handed over the reins of the family business to two of his four sons, so he could be the full-time president of the Conservatives.
He has been involved in politics since he was 15, when he attended his first party convention. He has been a campaign manager on a number of campaigns in his riding of Provencher, including former Manitoba cabinet minister Jake Epp, and current cabinet minister Vic Toews.
He has also long had the support of Harper. It has been said while Harper was the public face on the unite the right movement, it was Plett who did the door-to-door grassroots sales job convincing individual party members of the benefits of a single conservative party in Canada.
Plett was elected president of the Canadian Alliance in 2002 and was appointed the interim president of the united Conservative Party in 2003. He was elected to the position in 2005 in a hard-fought battle that pitted the more traditionally conservative Plett against a gay, bilingual lawyer from Montreal.
Plett won with Harper's vote.
Married 41 years, he has four sons and six grandchildren. He spends his winters curling and his summers golfing near his cottage at Buffalo Point.
Canadian senators, who are paid $132,000 a year, are normally appointed for a term that lasts until they reach the age of 75, when they must retire. But Harper is committed to changing senators' terms by limiting them to eight years. His previous attempts to do that have been largely blocked by the Liberal majority in the Senate.
With the resignation Wednesday of Quebec Senator Lise Bacon, Harper now has nine vacancies to fill.
Canwest News Service has learned that he's poised to fill eight of those vacancies immediately, giving the Conservatives 45 of the 105 seats in the Senate.
All the new appointees have agreed to work with Harper on his Senate-reform package, which also includes a process to have senators elected.
One Conservative operative said the Prime Minister's Office had planned to make the Senate appointments Wednesday but changed the timing partly because most news outlets were devoting much of their space to coverage of U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy's death. The operative said that PMO communications advisers were worried they'd be accused of trying to "bury the news" of the Senate appointments if they were released on the same day as another major news event.
Still, Harper's advisers want the news out within the next 10 days, before the Labour Day weekend, while voter attention to politics is less intense than it would be this fall. Harper is sure to come under fire -- perhaps even by critics in his own party -- for engaging in the same kind of patronage politics that drew harsh criticism from him and other Conservatives when previous Liberal governments did it.
But Conservatives are bracing themselves for a few days of rocky headlines with talking points that include telling reporters that if Senator David Smith, who was former prime minister Jean Chrétien's campaign mastermind, deserves a Senate seat, so too does Finley for playing the same role for Harper in his election campaigns.
Finley, who was employed by Conservative Party and not by the PMO, was and will remain the party's campaign manager.
Manitoba has six senators in the upper chamber.
The current makeup includes Liberals Sharon Carstairs, Maria Chaput and Rod Zimmer and Conservatives Janis Johnson and Terry Stratton. The next vacancy in Manitoba won't come until 2013 when Stratton turns 75.
-- Winnipeg Free Press, Canwest News Service