This week, Sen. Peter Harder, embarked on a herculean political mission aimed at helping get Canada’s Senate working the way the government wants it to. Which is to say, passing Liberal legislation.
The government’s representative in the Senate had been telling Albertans how the new-look Red Chamber, most of whose inhabitants are independent, could return to its “traditional role as a voice for Canada’s regions” rather than act like a partisan sandbox.
Perhaps it could if (a) everyone were buying the premise and (b) this new independence did not have the effect of making the Senate even less accountable than it was prior to 2014.
That was the year Trudeau, then leader of the third party, dumped all Liberal senators from the Liberal caucus. He also pledged to appoint only independents in future. In 2017, he is reaping the political fallout.
There is only one organized party caucus in the Senate: the Tories. With 39 senators, they aren’t a majority, but it doesn’t matter. As members of the Conservative caucus, working with their MP counterparts, they’ve stalled or stymied some Liberal legislation, such as Bill C-4, which amended the rules around unionization. They’ve also used what Harder terms “obstruction” to slow the progress of Bill C-16 on transgender rights. Other agenda items have been delayed, such as a bill on the final wording of the lyrics to O Canada.