Harper gains control of Senate, names newest members
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Friday, January 29, 2010 10:31PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 12:50AM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has named two Ontarians, one Quebecer and two Atlantic Canadians to the Senate, giving the Conservatives a plurality of seats in the upper house.
Bob Runciman, a long-time Ontario Progressive Conservative MP, is among the new picks for the Senate announced Friday morning.
Indian-Canadian businessman Vim Kochhar, president of the Vimal Group of Companies, is the other Ontario appointee.
Runciman released a statement saying he was "deeply honoured that the Prime Minister has asked me to join his caucus as a Senator."
Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu, a Quebec victims' rights advocate, has also been named to the Senate.
Newfoundland and Labrador's former auditor general, Elizabeth Marshall, will join the Senate ranks.
And Rose-May Poirier, a current New Brunswick MLA and former cabinet minister, rounded out the list of new Senate picks.
While opposition MPs attacked Harper for apparently going against his own previous goals of reforming the Senate, a Tory majority in the Upper Chamber could actually further reform.
A Friday morning release from the prime minister said the new appointees had "pledged to support the government in its efforts to make the Senate more democratic and accountable, including legislation to limit Senate terms to eight years."
Harper said he intends to "continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate."
Runciman agreed, saying that he was still committed to a reformed Senate. He added that he would step down from his post or run for a seat in the future.
"If the opportunity arose," he told CTV's Power Play Friday afternoon, "I'd be quite interested in running."
Meanwhile, Boisvenu pledged Friday to remain in his new post for just four years.
The Conservatives have appointed 32 senators in the past year, which the opposition said is a record number.
The appointments will give the Tories 51 seats in the Upper Chamber, compared to 49 for the Liberals.
That would leave the Senate's five remaining members -- two Progressive Conservatives, two independents and one without affiliation -- holding the balance of power.
The prime minister said he intends to push forward with the government's "tough-on-crime agenda," which he will do with the help of the newest members of the Senate.
"These new Senators are committed to community safety and justice for the victims of crime," Harper said. "I look forward to working with each towards making our communities safer and protecting families from crime."
Harper criticized the Liberal members for abusing their Senate majority "by obstructing and eviscerating law and order measures that are urgently needed and strongly supported by Canadians."
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff responded to Harper's comments by saying the prime minister quashed his own crime bills when he prorogued Parliament.
Ignatieff also said that Harper is contradicting his own goals of reforming the Upper Chamber.
"He simply does not respect promises to his political base," Ignatieff said.
He added that the Grits would push for Senate reform and argue for term limits, in consultation with the provinces.
NDP MP reform critic David Christopherson said that Harper doesn't have the mandate to take control of the Senate, adding that the Senate should be abolished altogether.
"What a disgrace, what an absolute disgrace that any prime minister who said he wants to reform the Senate is now breaking records in terms of the number of people that he's appointing," he said.
"This nonsense that this is an institution of sober second thought is a farce, and a farce costing almost $100 million a year."
Senators sit until age 75 and are paid an annual salary of $130,000.
With files from The Canadian Press