Justin Trudeau Reduces Senate Accountability

Justin Trudeau had a bit of a surprise for Liberal senators the other week. Standing outside the House of Commons, he announced to the media that there were no more Liberal senators. He was removing them from his caucus and they would now sit as Independents in the Senate. This, he claimed, was a step toward fixing the Senate. In reality, it was one of the most bizarre leadership initiatives I have seen in 13 years.

Repeating what Conservatives have been saying for years, “the Senate is broken, and needs to be fixed.” Mr. Trudeau proceeded to do exactly the opposite and made it worse. While promoting the illusion of making improvements, he succeeded only in eroding accountability in the Senate further.

Push aside all the rhetoric for a moment and consider what just happened: Unelected Liberal senators are now accountable to… well, no one. They’ve never been accountable to electors, and now they are not accountable to a party or a party Leader. They do not have to answer to anyone. This, Mr. Trudeau tells us, is an improvement.

To make matters worse, he went on to propose that, in the future, an unelected, appointed committee should appoint unelected, appointed senators. It’s such a bizarre proposal that you may have to read that sentence twice just to make sense of it.

Even Liberal senators scrambled to minimize the damaging implications of their former Leader’s announcement. Senator James Cowan, who had been the Liberal Senate leader, insisted that Liberal senators would remain the “Senate Liberal Caucus”. He went on to say, “I’m not a former Liberal senator, I’m a Liberal. I think not a lot will change.” Senator Jim Munson agreed, “I will remain an independent Liberal senator.” Senator Poulin announced, “We’re calling ourselves Liberal senators.”

It would all be laughable if it were not for the fact that Justin Trudeau would like to be Prime Minister of Canada. This is the man who finds China’s dictatorship admirable, promotes marijuana legalization to elementary school children, misled Canadians about his taxpayer funded expenses, would consider repealing mandatory minimum sentences for child sex offenders, refused to call “honour” killings barbaric, considers Quebec separation an acceptable option, and sympathized with the Boston Marathon bombers.

I have been a proponent of Senate Reform for more than 15 years. But the reform that is needed must result in greater accountability, regional representation and responsiveness to Canadian voters, or, failing that, abolition. Mr. Trudeau’s actions accomplished none of these.

David Anderson, MP for Cypress Hills – Grasslands
February 2014