Senate reform ruffles some Conservative feathers
The prime minister's quest to reform the Senate has hit a roadblock from an unexpected source: Conservative senators.
In fact, Conservative senators kicked up a fuss on Tuesday when Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal outlined the government's plan to limit Senate terms to nine years and to ask the provinces to hold Senate elections.
Currently, senators are appointed by the prime minister and can serve until they are 75.
Some senators, like the Mulroney era's Pierre Claude Nolin, openly oppose Harper's reforms.
But some newer members of the Upper Chamber are slightly more coy. When asked if he was happy with a nine-year term, Sen. Gerry St. Germain demurred.
"I haven't looked at it in detail, and I don't know if it's been tabled," he said.
Meanwhile, some of the newer senators appointed by Harper object, as leaving their post before age 75 would leave them with a smaller pension.
"Well, there is nothing more convenient than changing your mind once you sit in the comfortable pew," said Liberal Sen. Sharon Carstairs, reflecting on the apparent change of heart from some Conservatives.
Indeed, the Conservative's have faced plenty of political static each time Harper has announced new Senate appointments, as critics say the appointments go against Harper's own promises to overhaul the chamber.
And now the flap is causing dissention within the Conservative ranks, too.
Alberta Sen. Bert Brown, the only elected member sitting in the red chamber, wrote an open letter to his colleagues, admonishing those who won't go along with the new proposals.
"Every senator in this caucus needs to decide where their loyalty should be and must be," Brown wrote.
"The answer is simple: our loyalty is to the man who brought us here, the man who has wanted Senate reform since he entered politics, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper."
While some younger senators, like Patrick Brazeau, say they will back the proposed changes, others wouldn't comment either way.
"I don't want to make any comments," said Sen. Jacques Demers, as he dodged a question from CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife.
Harper told the Conservative caucus Wednesday that if senators won't support the reforms, he will move to abolish the Senate, Fife reported.
However, doing so would require constitutional change, Fife added.