Prime minister fills 18 vacant Senate seats
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Monday, December 22, 2008 10:02PM EST
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 9:48PM EDT
Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed more senators Monday than had ever been appointed in a single day throughout Canadian history.
His 18 new picks -- which included two former TV broadcasters, an Olympic champion skier, as well as a number of former federal and provincial politicians -- brought the total number of Conservative Senators to 38.
Long-time Senator Marjory LeBreton told CTV that she was "delighted" to see her Tory peers gain greater representation within the senate.
"Literally, today, our numbers in the senate virtually doubled," she said.
Fourteen of these new senators, CTV's Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported, were Tory organizers, former politicians and in one case, a Conservative fundraiser.
After years of successive Liberal governments, the 105-seat Senate had been made up of 58 Grits and 20 Conservatives prior to today's announcement.
Prior to Monday, Harper had appointed only two senators during his time as prime minister.
PM appoints Mike Duffy to the senate
Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin are two of the best-known new senators -- Duffy for his years as a political commentator and Wallin for her work as a journalist and diplomat.
Duffy, who leaves behind the hosting of CTV's Mike Duffy Live to become a senator, told CTV Atlantic's Steve Murphy about how his appointment came to be.
The veteran journalist said he first learned that the prime minister had interest in seeing him serve on the senate on Saturday morning.
The two men had a conversation about senate reform and he was offered the job.
After taking some time to think about it, Duffy decided to take the position.
He denied that his appointment as a Conservative senator meant he held a political bias.
"Frankly, I told the prime minister I'm not much of a partisan," Duffy said.
"I'm going to be there, but that's just to even up the side. I'm one of these people who believes in a fair fight," he added, referring to the lopsided Liberal-to-Conservative numbers seen in the senate prior to Monday's appointments.
Famed skier Nancy Greene Raine, winner of 13 World Cups and the Olympic gold for giant slalom in 1968, was also named to the senate on Monday.
Former politicians among the appointees
The prime minister also named a number of current and former politicians to the senate including former Conservative MP Fabian Manning, current New Brunswick MLA Percy Mockler and Mulroney-era Conservative MP Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis.
Michel Rivard, a former Quebec MNA and Parti Quebecois member, ran under the Canadian Alliance banner in the 2000 federal election, but failed to gain a seat.
Lawyer Fred Dickson and Conservative organizer Michael L. MacDonald, both of Nova Scotia, were appointed Monday, as well as Stephen Greene, a former chief of staff to Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald.
New Brunswick lawyer John D. Wallace was also appointed to the senate, as was Montreal businessman Leo Housakos.
Patrick Brazeau, the 34-year-old National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, is believed to be among the youngest-ever serving senators.
He told CTV Newsnet that he believes in senate reform, but that he hopes to bring a voice to the senate that can represent the issues that are important to him.
"Being an aboriginal person, a proud Quebecer, and a proud Canadian, I'm also a big supporter of stronger federalism," Brazeau said.
"I think the time has come where a debate and a discussion is needed to unite Canadians towards a stronger federal state rather than having these talks about separation all the time, especially in Quebec.
Conservative Party fundraiser and Order of Canada member Irving Gerstein got a senate seat as well, as did charity fundraiser and columnist Nicole Eaton.
British Columbia cultural activist Yonah Martin, former B.C. minister of energy mines and petroleum Richard Neufeld, and former member of the Yukon Legislative Assembly Hector Daniel Lang round out the list.
Harper's plans for senate reform
Harper's decision to fill empty seats with Conservative appointees is a controversial one, given that he has long expressed his desire for an elected Senate, whereby each province would send their own representatives to Ottawa.
Under the current system, the prime minister chooses senators.
Harper has also said he would like the current 45-year term, which carries a mandatory retirement age of 75, to be reduced to just eight years.
"Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate," Harper said in a news release. "If Senate vacancies are to be filled, however, they should be filled by the government that Canadians elected rather than by a coalition that no one voted for."
Harper said all of the senators support eight-year term limits and other proposed Senate reforms.
The opposition has criticized Harper's decision to make patronage appointments at a time when he is mired in a political crisis that is threatening his government.
Opposition reaction to senate appointments
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said the appointments, which occurred while Parliament is prorogued, show that the prime minister cannot be trusted.
"Mr. Harper has said repeatedly that he would never appoint senators, including during the last election," he said in a statement released Monday.
"Canadians cannot understand why he keeps breaking his word."
NDP MP David Christopherson said the prime minister's timing of the new appointments --when many Canadians are losing their jobs -- couldn't be worse.
"Stephen Harper keeps telling Canadians to tighten their belts," he said.
"Mr. Harper should be focused on the 71,000 Canadians who lost their jobs last month. These 18 patronage appointments show that when it comes to job creation, Mr. Harper cares more about rewarding his Conservative friends than creating jobs for Canadians."
Earlier this month, Harper was forced to ask Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to prorogue Parliament to fend off a Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition that was waiting to take power after a confidence vote.
The crisis, which was spurred by a poorly received economic update that did not contain a stimulus package for the sputtering economy, is merely on hold until late January, when Parliament resumes and the Conservatives are scheduled to table a budget.
With files from The Canadian Press