A few years ago, the Harper Government introduced bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities bill. They used all the powers in their means to push this particular bill through the House of Commons, using time allocation to limit debate and using their majority standing at the committee level and in the House to push through this bill post haste.
The only problem? There were flaws in the bill.
The flaws were pointed out by the opposition and they introduced amendments to correct these flaws, but the Harper Party would have none of that and pushed C-10 through the way it stood. And then they realized that the opposition parties were indeed right, the bill needed amendments.
So the Harper Party called on their counterparts in the Senate and asked them to amend the bill so that these flaws could be corrected. And the Senate did, and then they sent it back to the House where the Harper Party passed it through again.
This is sort of the way the Senate is supposed to work.
Actually the Senate is supposed to look at the bills passed in the House and determine if they are good bills without being told how to vote on those bills. If the bill is a “good” bill then they pass it. If the bill is not a good bill, they can amend the bill and send it back, or they can kill the bill in the Senate.
So imagine the surprise on the faces of the Harper faithful when the Senate found bill C-377 to be in need of amendment.
The PMO has weighed in, they are none too pleased with the 16 Senators that sided with the Liberals in the Senate and they are equally miffed at the 4 Senators who abstained, allowing the amended version to pass and not supporting the original bill.
I think the PMO should stick a sock in it. The Senate did what they are paid to do for a change.
This isn’t a rare occurrence like some would have you believe, since 1960 the Senate has amended and returned over 110 bills to the House, some of these bills passed back and forth a few times. Liberal dominated Senates have returned Liberal bills, Conservative dominated Senates have returned Conservative bills and now a Harper Party dominated Senate has returned a Harper Party bill.
That’s an average of just over 2 bills per year.
Besides, it’s not like they killed the bill, which truly is a rare occurrence, they merely amended it. The only instance that I can recall of the Senate killing a bill in recent history is the Climate Change Accountability Act C-311, that the opposition parties managed to put through some years ago and the Harper Party Senators used a procedural tactic to vote down the bill at First reading. No debate, just vote, just kill it.
As for the bills that the Harper Party faithful whine about? Those died when the Senate amended them and the House did not move on them, the House just left them to die when the House dissolved for election or when Stephen Harper prorogued the House, twice.
Stephen killed those bills, not the Senate.
Look, we’ve had the Senate for almost 150 years now, and for the most part it has worked pretty well. It is by no means perfect, but there is no way on earth that I would trust Stephen Harper, Tom Mulcair or Justin Trudeau to redo the Senate. Politicians have a lacklustre track record when it comes to writing rules to govern themselves, this would be far too important to trust to them.
For those of you who think the Senate should be abolished, let’s put it this way. If there were no Senate, then bill C-377 would be the law and the unions would have to tell everyone up and down the street how much of a Christmas tip they gave the paper carrier. If there is an issue with how the unions spend their money, it is up to the membership to deal with that. Not you, not me, and certainly not Stephen Harper.
I would much rather know how much you and I are paying the people in the PMO. You know the folks that hide in their holes and only pop up to throw poop at bad Senators and the RCMP? How about you?
The irony here is the template that the Senate used for their amendments to C-377. The threshold for salary disclosure of union leadership was raised to $444,461.00. This is the same amount that the Harper Party amended the threshold for reporting public servants’ salaries in bill C-461, Brent Rathgeber’s Sunshine list bill.
Obviously the amount chosen was intentional, they are sending a message to Stephen Harper. I hope the message is that at least some of the people in the Senate have remembered that they were appointed as Conservatives and not Harper Party marionettes. I also hope this is a message to the PMO that some of the Senate has lost its fear of the “boys in short pants”.
None the less, Brent Rathgeber appears to enjoy the irony, and so do I.
Cheers for now! BC