Thursday, December 11, 2008

Senate appointments

Media reports suggest that the Prime Minister will be making the wise political move, and wise move for the functioning of the Senate, of filling the 18 vacancies that exist in that body. He will however have to battle a perception problem as he has vowed only to fill vacancies with elected Senators.

While still placing a large number of Conservatives in the Senate and filling all vacancies, there is a process where he would appear to respect his pledge to bring democracy to the Senate.

The 18 vacancies cover eight provinces and one territory. Harper could look to the results of the recent federal election in each of those jurisdictions for "advice" from Canadians on how to fill the Senate vacancies.

For instance, in Prince Edward Island, the Liberals hold 3 seats in the Senate and there is one vacancy. The Liberals received 47.7% of the vote and the Conservatives received 36.2%. If you break that out it says that Liberals should have 1.9 seats and the Conservatives 1.4. But because the Liberals already hold 3 seats, then the one vacancy should go to the Conservatives.

If you apply this across the 18 vacancies, the Conservatives would get 10, the NDP would get 7 and the Liberals would get 1.

In 2005, despite the fact that the NDP wants to abolish the Senate and refused to recognize the appointment, Paul Martin appointed a nominal New Democrat to the Senate. Harper could do something similar, appointing Canadians who could be deemed associated with the NDP who favour his Senate reform agenda.

Following this formula Newfoundland and Labrador would get an NDP senator, New Brunswick would get a Conservative and a New Democrat, Nova Scotia would get two New Democrats and a Conservative, PEI would get a Conservative, Quebec would get three Conservatives and a New Democrat, Ontario would get a Conservative and a New Democrat, Yukon would get a Liberal, Saskatchewan would get a Conservative, and British Columbia would get two Conservatives and a New Democrat.

The standings in the Senate would be:
Liberal 59
Conservative 30
PC 3
Ind 5

If the prime minister simply appoints 18 Tories, the standings would be:
Liberal 58
Conservative 38
PC 3
Ind 5

-- marginally better for the Tories but not worth the PR nightmare of going back on the pledge to appoint based on the will of Canadians.

Food for thought for my Conservative friends who may have the ear of the Prime Minister.


nbt said...

Interesting model. I'd prefer that they all be elected, but hey, until then, that's not a bad idea.

Btw, does the formula hold true to Alberta? If so, the Libs would be in big trouble there.

nbpolitico said...

This would just be a means for Harper to "democratize" these appointments, I wouldn't suggest it be used as a long-term means for Senate reform.

I'm not sure what you mean by retroactivity? There are no vacancies in Alberta.

nbt said...

Your model but rolled back?. I think all the senates seats are liberal but there hasn't been a high per cent of liberals elected there [Alberta] federally in a longtime. So if we're talking true representation via appointments/elected, then we must re-evaluate the whole deal.

nbpolitico said...

Yes in order to make the Senate representative you would need to put the boots to all of the incumbents. But I am not advocating this as a permanent measure, I am just saying this would be a good one-time justification shield for Harper.