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Anyone who thought that a majority government would produce a kinder, gentler, more accountable Stephen Harper than we had seen during the last two Conservative minority governments likely was disabused of that notion this week.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/05/2011 (4147 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Anyone who thought that a majority government would produce a kinder, gentler, more accountable Stephen Harper than we had seen during the last two Conservative minority governments likely was disabused of that notion this week.

On Tuesday Mr. Harper announced without much fanfare or fuss his new cabinet, which is large but hardly controversial. It barely raised an eyebrow. What followed, however, had eyeballs popping all over the place. The prime minister, who always campaigned on Senate reform, appointed three defeated Conservative candidates to the Red Chamber. Former senators Fabian Manning and Larry Smith, who resigned their seats in the Senate to run in the election but lost, are now back in the Senate, joined by former cabinet minister Josee Verner, who now enjoys Canada’s most comfortable sinecure.

The official Tory explanation for this is that these are people who the prime minister needs close to him, people he can rely on for advice and support. It does not necessarily mean, as many people might think it does, that Mr. Harper has abandoned his ambitions to create an elected Senate now that, like his Liberal predecessors, he has discovered the advantages of that institution as a repository for failed political loyalists and a depository for patronage. That’s a hard nut to swallow. At its worst, it looks like a contemptuous act on Mr. Harper’s part. At its best, however, it sets the stage for a genuine and national debate about the future of the Senate, which the NDP, at least before they became the official Opposition, said should be abolished. The country can only benefit from that. The real Tories can now come out into the light of day and show Canada what they’re made of.

Having begun as they have, they should now initiate Senate reform to begin that debate, unless, of course, they, like the Liberals before them, have been seduced by the political allure of the Red Chamber.

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