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
NDP 8
PC 3
Ind 5

If the prime minister simply appoints 18 Tories, the standings would be:
Liberal 58
Conservative 38
PC 3
NDP 1
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.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A dangerous precedent?

Martha Hall Findlay looks at the prorogation angle differently than I had ever considered.

If the governor general does allow a prorogation, would it be the end of responsible government in Canada?

The premise of responsible government is that the executive remains in office only so long as it enjoys the support of the responsible house of the legislature. If the governor general allows a prorogation and sets a precedent that a prime minister can seek and receive a prorogation anytime, even when it less than two weeks after a throne speech, with no legislation passed. This would allow any future prime minister to simply prorogue whenever a confidence vote they fear losing is scheduled.

This is a very interesting and fair point. One I'm surprised I've never heard mentioned by one of the countless "experts" who've been on TV the past week.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Coalition cabinet revised

So we've learned that it will be a cabinet of 25: the prime minister plus 24 ministers.

Thus, I'm revising my list, and also because I left out John McCallum who I think almost certainly would be in the cabinet.

Dion did not say whether or not leadership candidates would be in the cabinet, but I cannot imagine he would put them in. In order to be fair, they should all be given 'equal' portfolios, which is essentially impossible. Both Rae and Ignatieff would be logical choices for foreign minister, but that job is not an ideal one for running a leadership campaign. Finance minister is not a logical choice for either of them. The NDP is purported to be getting a major economic portfolio. Suddenly, there isn't much available for either Rae or Ignatieff and we've not even thought of LeBlanc. So I'd say it is easier for all if the leadership candidates focus on running for leader.

Finally, it is important to note that this coalition is not a done deal; the prime minister may yet request a prorogation (which the governor general may deny) or, if the government falls, an election (which she may grant).

All that in mind, my revised guess. An asterisk denotes a change from my earlier thoughts.

Prime Minister of Canada
Rt. Hon. Stéphane Dion

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Hon. Wayne Easter

Minister of Canadian Heritage
Hon. Marc Garneau

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Hon. Navdeep Bains

Minister of the Environment
Hon. Thomas Mulcair

Minister of Finance
Hon. Scott Brison

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Jack Harris

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for International Cooperation
Hon. Ralph Goodale

Minister of Health
Hon. Ken Dryden

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and Minister of Labour
Hon. Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Hon. Irwin Cotler

Minister of Industry
Rt. Hon. Jack Layton

Minister of International Trade
Hon. Gerard Kennedy

Minister of Justice
Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh*

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Hon. Libby Davies

Leader of the Government in the Senate
Hon. Claudette Tardiff

Minister of National Defence
Hon. John McCallum*

Minister of National Revenue
Hon. Bryon Wilfert

Minister of Natural Resources
Hon. Linda Duncan

Minister of Public Safety
Hon. Marlene Jennings

Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Hon. Mark Holland

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Hon. Denis Coderre

Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Hon. Martha Hall Findlay

President of the Treasury Board
Hon. David McGuinty

Minister of Veterans Affairs
Hon. Brian Murphy*

Coalition cabinet

I just can't resist a prediction.

Presuming that the government does fall, and the governor-general does call on St├ęphane Dion to form a government, and that media reports indicating there will be eighteen Liberals and six New Democrats in the cabinet, and that the Finance Minister will be a Liberal are all correct, here is my prediction for the coalition cabinet:

Prime Minister of Canada
Rt. Hon. St├ęphane Dion

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Hon. Wayne Easter

Minister of Canadian Heritage
Hon. Marc Garneau

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Hon. Navdeep Bains

Minister of the Environment
Hon. Thomas Mulcair

Minister of Finance
Hon. Scott Brison

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Hon. Jack Harris

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister for International Cooperation
Hon. Ralph Goodale

Minister of Health
Hon. Ken Dryden

Minister of Human Resources and Social Development and Minister of Labour
Hon. Judy Wasylyvia-Leis

Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Hon. Irwin Cotler

Minister of Industry
Rt. Hon. Jack Layton

Minister of International Trade
Hon. Gerard Kennedy

Minister of Justice
Hon. Brian Murphy

Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Hon. Libby Davies

Leader of the Government in the Senate
Hon. Claudette Tardiff

Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs
Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh

Minister of National Revenue
Hon. Bryon Wilfert

Minister of Natural Resources
Hon. Linda Duncan

Minister of Public Safety
Hon. Marlene Jennings

Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Hon. Mark Holland

Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs
Hon. Denis Coderre

Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
Hon. Martha Hall Findlay

President of the Treasury Board
Hon. David McGuinty