Prime Minister Stephen Harper is bracing for a tongue lashing as he gets ready to announce a sweeping wave of Senate reform.
The inevitable backlash should be entertaining as it will mostly come from one place — the Senate itself — and will be the first time that many Canadians have heard from their senators since they ascended to sit upon Ottawa’s gold and velvet thrones.
Not wanting to get into a whole constitutional amendment battle (it’s a control thing), Harper is instead hoping he can convince the senators that they should embrace the compromise of a reformed democratic Senate (ie, elected), with nine-year terms.
Despite decent wages (base annual salary of $132,300), work conditions (average of 100 work days a year), travel (64 paid round trips to anywhere in Canada and a $20,000 allowance) and other perks, the senators don’t like the scandalous idea of being at the mercy of a voting public. And who can blame them. If I had a cushy paycheque for life (with very little consequence for not even showing up) and some smug chap from the prairies told me that now I actually had to work for it, I might be a bit peeved myself.
I mean, when will the indignity end? First, in Canada nobody seems very impressed when you say you’re a senator, and without that power-mad glory sex scandals are depressingly low (when was the last time a Canadian senator tweeted his privates to a porn star?); second, you don’t get to wear powdered wigs and flowing robes and shout nasty remarks at each other in snooty accents; and third, the gold on the thrones is a thin gold leaf that can be picked off when bored.
And now, instead of having a guaranteed job until the age of 75 (also eligible for retirement at age 55 and then receive three-quarters of your salary in pension), Harper is proposing that the working class would actually have a say in how well these gilded stewards have served their country — well, you might as well have them audition for Canadian Idol.
Of course, if the senators do decide to put up a fight, Harper is likely to get all huffy and do what the majority of Canadians actually want — close the doors and abolish the darn thing.
For checks and balances, we have opposition parties and a federal election every four to five years. (And the last election shows how tough we can be when disappointed, eh Bloc?) We don’t need a senate. M