Appointed Conservative Senators Change Their Tunes on Senate Reform

Julian Wolfe
June 17th, 2011

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
While the provinces of Ontario and Quebec were quick to pounce on Harper’s proposed senate reforms, it turns out that Harper’s newly minted Conservative majority in the Red Chamber are rejecting the plan as they fear that retiring at an earlier age than 75 will greatly reduce their pension payments. Harper defended his appointments at the time stating that the purpose was to pass senate reform.

The part that the senators hated in particular was the 9 year limit to terms which was introduced by Democratic Reform Minister Tim Uppal, along with the province-held elections.

In the current system, senators are appointed by the Prime Minister and serve until the age of 75.

Pierre Claude Nolin is one of the senators from the Mulroney era that openly opposed senate reform.

Some of the newer senators appointed by Harper object due to the fact that they would have to retire before the age of 75 and be left with smaller pensions.

Liberal Senator Sharon Carstairs reflected on the Conservative change of heart and said, “Well, there is nothing more convenient than changing your mind once you sit in the comfortable pew.”

The only elected member of the senate, Alberta;s Bert Brown wrote an open letter stating that they should stick to the plan and that their “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.”

Harper told the Conservative caucus that if senators won’t support the reforms that he plans to make without opening the constitution, he will open the constitution and abolish the senate.

Former Liberal Senator Lavigne Sentenced for Fraud

Former Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne was ordered to serve six months of house arrest and donate $10,000 to charity after being convicted for fraud and breach of trust charges.

Lavigne, 65, resigned from the senate after his conviction.

After his sentencing, Lavigne could have been faced with 14 years in prison but the Crown only asked for a sentence of 12 to 15 months.

Crown prosecutors pointed at Lavigne’s repeated transgressions, lack of remorse and motivation for financial gain as the main factors to be considered in his sentencing but the defense argued that his reputation had been tarnished due to the charges and that he has paid some of the money back.

Lavigne indicated that he plans to appeal his convictions and sentence and muttered, “It’s not justice,” when leaving the court.

Lavigne was appointed to the senate by Jean Chretien in 2002 and was an elected Liberal MP on three occasions before being named to the Senate.

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