Just in case you missed it, Bert Brown, tireless champion of Canadians’ right to be spared the depredations of an unelected Senate, voted Tuesday as a member of the unelected Senate to overturn the will of those same Canadians’ democratically elected representatives in the House of Commons.
Mr. Brown, of course, was dropped into that very same unelected Upper Chamber in 2007 by Canada’s profoundly anti-democratic prime minister, Stephen Harper, the Prorogation King.
Unlike most senators, Mr. Brown can claim the tiniest sliver of democratic legitimacy – having once been elected a Senator A’waitin’ in a meaningless 2004 vote foisted on Alberta as an amusing political gimmick by then-premier Ralph Klein and ignored by almost everyone in the province with a lick of sense.
The reality, of course, is that if the 2004 vote had been a real election for a real elected Senate seat, it is unlikely Mr. Brown could have won. That’s because more folks than this province’s hard-core rump of Senate-reform kooks would have bothered to run. That goes triple for the other three members of Alberta’s Senatorial wait staff. Still, that tattered shred of electoral justification notwithstanding, the retired Calgary-area farmer’s vote Tuesday night reeks of the vilest sort of hypocrisy.
Don’t expect to hear much about that in Alberta’s lamestream media, however. Their silence will be deafening on the question of what happened to the wails of outrage we might have expected from Alberta’s perpetually disaffected Senate bashers, whose number until recently included Mr. Brown.
You’d think there’d be a squeak or two of protest. Yet all we can hear out here in the echoing vastness of the Conservative heartland is the whistling of the winter wind.
Oh well, it’s only been a few hours since the Conservative Senators in the Upper House of Canada’s Parliament gave in to their worst undemocratic impulses and killed climate change legislation that had been adopted by a majority of the members of the House of Commons last spring. We can be sure that within a few days we’ll hear … absolutely nothing more.
You can count on that, actually. One thing that often surprises newcomers to Alberta is the degree to which we have perfected the Orwellian technique of “doublethink” – defined as “the act of simultaneously accepting as correct two mutually contradictory beliefs.”
So, for example, when a group of labour unions had the temerity in 2007 to purchase television advertisements assailing the Conservative provincial government, the sound of garments being rent and teeth being gnashed by Tory supporters could be heard from Atlantic to Pacific. Unconstitutional, draconian and totally confusing legislation depriving opponents of the government of their pre-election right to free expression on forbidden topics was swiftly enacted by the provincial Legislature.
When, by contrast, the federal Conservatives purchased offensive advertisements attacking the Liberals, everyone shrugged and purported not to have noticed. What folks from other parts of Canada don’t understand is that, in Alberta, it’s only an attack ad if it attacks the Conservatives.
Meanwhile, back in the Conservative-dominated patronage chamber, Senators did their profoundly undemocratic deed without a word of debate. They killed the legislation dead without sending it back to the House for reconsideration and modification, as arguably is the Senate’s job and certainly is its tradition.
So if you don’t live in Alberta, and you happened to wonder what Mr. Harper thinks of the democratic expression of your will by your elected representatives, well, I guess this pretty well establishes it – as if we didn’t know already!
And here we thought the hottest issue in Alberta for 30 years has been the unelected and undemocratic nature of the Senate. Indeed, just weeks ago, the province’s three remaining Senators Still Waiting were in a tizzy because Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach made the sensible decision not to waste taxpayers’ money just now on another pointless vote to elect people to a position that, in effect, doesn’t exist. Instead, the premier just extended their meaningless terms until 2013.
Betty Unger, Cliff Breitkreuz and Link Byfield all demanded immediate action on the Senate file.
Where are they now, one can’t help but wonder? Do they have no problem with Mr. Harper’s Conservatives using the Red Chamber to overturn the Commons in a way unprecedented even during all those years of supposedly perfidious Liberal misrule? So it would seem.
Of the three, Mr. Byfield is the best known. Perhaps he is too busy running as the Wildrose Alliance candidate for the job of MLA in Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock to comment. So, just in case no paid reporter bothers to root out Mr. Byfield to ask him the obvious question, here are some of his words from the past on this topic:
“I predict that Canada will be sent a constitutional ultimatum to institute (among other things) a full Triple-E Senate,” Mr. Byfield wrote in 2005 in the Winnipeg Free Press. “If it isn’t accepted within the requisite three years, I predict Albertans will vote on secession, using the referendum process laid out for Quebec in the federal Clarity Act. I can’t prove this, obviously, and I may be wrong. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Secession? Over an unelected Senate that blows up climate change legislation because it might prove inconvenient to Alberta’s tar-sands developers? Mind if I snooze while we wait for the unilateral declaration of independence?
Here’s betting that in fact, like the media, all three Senators A’waitin’ turn out to have no problem with the Senate’s most recent shocker. That’s because, in the time-honoured Alberta fashion, they will refuse to acknowledge the inconsistencies of their positions in more than a ritual way, if that.
More’s the pity, the days are gone when the likes of Mr. Brown would take his combine-harvester to a barley field and carve out the words “Triple-E Senate or Else” off the north end of Calgary International Airport’s main runway. Turns out he was only carving another alien crop circle.
The NDP has had it right about the Canadian Senate from the start. The only fit response is to abolish it.
This post also appears on rabble.ca.