Just in time for another opening of the House of Commons: more Senate talk.
Yes Canada, the House was sitting again this week and by all accounts it’s going to another Senate-heavy session.
But hark. What’s this?
Chatter about the senate that doesn’t involve Mike Duffy or isn’t followed by the word “scandal?”
On Wednesday, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau kicked all of the Liberal senators out of his caucus, telling them they must sit as Independents.
The move reportedly gob-smacked nearly everyone in Ottawa from the Parliamentary Press Gallery all the way up to the senators themselves.
Nobody saw this coming.
It was, to be sure, a shrewd political move, one that’s sure to shake things up in Ottawa and across the national political landscape.
It will keep the national media focused on the Liberal party for the foreseeable future, while Prime Minister Stephen Harper would much rather keep the national conversation on his strongpoint of the economy.
The move has the added bonus of keeping attention on the Senate - which is the last thing Harper wants to talk about.
There’s also the double whammy bonus of showing up Harper in an area where he had formerly been considered a champion: Senate reform.
There’s also the populist aspect to consider. The Senate, in its current form, is growing ever more deeply unpopular with Canadians.
Trudeau’s move essentially de-politicizes the Liberal senators meaning that each is now an individual, free to vote and act as they see fit.
He went so far as to say there is no longer such a thing as a Liberal senator.
Though the likelihood of them all renouncing their Liberal Party
membership and voting right-wing is unlikely, to say the least, the 36 now former Liberal senators will have no official affiliation with the larger party insiders.
Critics of Trudeau’s move have raised some valid points.
Namely, that it’s an attempt to insulate the party from its own, not insignificant role in Senate money misspending, and that despite Trudeau’s proclamation to the contrary, Liberal senators will remain just that: Liberals who are senators.
The Conservatives also continue to decry the fact that senators are appointed and not elected, while the New Democratic Party want to abolish the Senate altogether.
It will be interesting to see how the fallout from Wednesday’s
announcement plays out.