Newly appointed Senator Victor Oh defended PM Harper’s move on the census

Before Senator Victor Oh was a Senator, he said “I believe voluntary information is more accurate than mandatory” regarding the mandatory long-form census versus the voluntary survey.

From the written record of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Hon. Mauril Bélanger:
 
Sir, we verified with the United Way, and according to them, the data obtained by the long-form census, which has been mandatory up until now, is the only source of reliable and comprehensive data regarding individuals and families in the local neighbourhood communities. They want this to be maintained, to be able to continue doing community mapping not only in Peel, but they do it in Ottawa and in other communities as well.
 
My next question to you is on the accuracy. You said because the government will increase from 20% to 30% the number of people getting the long form, although it’s no longer mandatory, this will provide greater accuracy.
 
Mr. Victor Oh:
 
Yes, because I believe voluntary information is more accurate than mandatory.
 
—-
 
Mr. Victor Oh:
 
In my contact with the communities, the feedback I had was that this survey was not a big deal, and why do you make it so political? What the country should do now is focus on the economy and jobs. We should stay ahead of the G-7. The average person is not interested in why we’re sitting here today. I don’t think it’s important. I think the most important thing is the economy and job creation.
 
———-
 
Mr. Victor Oh (Honorary President of the Mississauga Chinese Business Association, Confederation of Greater Toronto Chinese Business Association):
 
Thank you very much for having me here today to explain my point of view.
 
Many countries in the world have taken on the mandatory census. I strongly believe our government has replaced the mandatory census with the voluntary national survey because we do not believe it is appropriate to compel Canadians to divulge extensive private and personal information. I do not believe Canadians should be forced under the threat of fines, jail, or both, to divulge the answers to certain intimate questions. I’m from Singapore, and jail is a no-no over there.
 
Furthermore, I have confidence that a sufficient number of civic-minded Canadians will complete and return the national household survey to provide equally valid and valuable information to the data collected under the threat of penalty. I believe a voluntary census, with 30% more forms sent out, will give more accuracy on information coming back.
 
The approach to this issue is about finding a better balance between collecting necessary data and protecting the private rights of Canadians. I recognize that the information gathered from the long-form census is valuable. However, I believe a balance must be drawn between the government collecting data under the threat of fines, jail, or both.
 
For the last four years I’ve seen a lot of new immigration settlements being set up across the GTA and Canada. So it shows that, from time to time, government has paid attention to how many immigrants are coming into the country, what they need and where they need help, and I think that is critical. I’ve been in Canada for 30 years, and this is the first time I’ve seen so many settlements opening up, over the last four years.
 
In conclusion, as an entrepreneur, I feel strongly about efficient use of taxpayers’ money and about excessive intervention by government in the everyday life of people. Based on my network and discussions, I think many Chinese are not aware of the value of a census and that even completing the form, be it mandatory or optional, the information might not be accurate.
 
I have attended dozens and dozens of events with ministers and MPs from all parties, including accompanying Prime Minister Harper to China, and I see that despite its hard work the government’s message does not always register 100% with the Chinese. Language and cultural differences are key issues.
 
In conclusion also, my association, I and my supporters, would like to offer help to the federal government and act as a bridge to the Chinese Canadian community, including information sessions and advertising in the ethnic media, so that they can better understand the importance of census ideas.
 
In terms of the United Way of Peel Region, just recently, they think the census of 2006 is already outdated. There is a new census conducted by the United Way of Peel Region, called the “community mapping process”, which shows that the Peel region has 52% or more new immigrants. So you can see that our situation in terms of mapping is very important.
 
With today’s technology, different companies and different organizations are doing a lot of different surveys on their own. That is a very important thing to show that we have a good census here in Canada but our information may not be up to date.

 
A lot of companies in the private sector are doing their own censuses, and I believe those censuses can be shared by everybody.
 
Thank you.

Senator Finley calls for an inquiry on the erosion of free speech in Canada

Today Senator Doug Finley rose in the Senate to give notice that he would “call the attention of the Senate to the issue of the erosion of Freedom of Speech in our country” and that this would be done through an inquiry.

Under the rules of the Senate, a minimum of two days must be given before a sponsoring senator can speak to an inquiry he or she would like to initiate. This means that Senator Finley is expected to speak to the issue next Tuesday at the earliest. Also, the sponsoring senator can provide a reply at the conclusion of the inquiry.

This move by Finley is likely in reaction to recent events by university officials and students at the University of Ottawa to intimidate US conservative commentator Ann Coulter from appearing on campus. Coulter’s scheduled speech was cancelled due to safety concerns this past Tuesday. The Senator will also rise during a time when federal and provincial human rights commissions have run amok, hearing complaints by politically offended groups and individuals.

The Ann Coulter cancellation at the University of Ottawa has further mainstreamed public opinion against censorship of speech drawing defense of the American firebrand by a broad cross-section of Canadian opinion-makers.

Finley’s call for a Senate inquiry will promote discussion of the values of free speech and will draw lawmakers to consider the broader view of how far this freedom has slipped away in Canada.

UDPATE: Hansard record of Finley’s notice.

Erosion of Freedom of Speech

Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Doug Finley: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate to the issue of the erosion of freedom of speech in our country.

The case for prorogation

Buzz about Ottawa these past two weeks (there’s really nothing else going on here) is talk about the Prime Minister asking the Governor General for a prorogation of this session of Parliament to recall MPs to the legislature in March of next year.

Opponents on the opposition benches and in the media have been cynical of such a move citing that Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament just last year and that like last year a prorogation would be a dodge rather than for anything substantive.

Indeed, the Prime Minister asked the Governor general for a suspension of Parliament last year after the coalition government attempt to replace a freshly elected Prime Minister and his cabinet just six weeks after an election, ahem, for no substantive reason beyond cynical bickering that the governing Conservatives were moving to remove public financing (read: party welfare) from all parties. The loudest opponents to this move were the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, two parties that find that collecting tax monies is an easier option that appealing directly to their respective bases for funding.

And this year, what substantive reason exists for a reset of Parliament? The opposition will argue that because an Afghan detainee transfer was hit with a shoe by a Afghan prison guard and that problems may have existed with our trust of transfer of Afghan nationals to the sovereign national Afghan authorities was at times tested, the Prime Minister is again running away from his problems. They will say that prorogation is political despite the Conservative lead in the polls and despite the fact that this detainee issue isn’t doing too much of anything to affect the Prime Minister’s standing in the polls.

However, let’s step back and go outside of the Ottawa bubble wherein the last two weeks of reporting of any period contains the most important news stories ever told. In 50 years, when they look back at the prorogation of 2010, how will they recount this event (if at all)?

For the first time in twenty years, Conservatives will have a plurality in the Senate of Canada. Our parliament is a bicameral body consisting of a lower and upper house. While its activities may not be conducive to the lust of the cut and thrust of politics for the average Ottawa watcher — and who called whom “fat” on Twitter in committee this week — the Senate is constitutionally important to the parliament of Canada. When a new plurality exists in the lower House, the Governor General asks the party leader that can lead a stable government to form a cabinet. When a new plurality exists within the Senate, the government’s opponents accuse the Prime Minister of politics when the Prime Minister asks the Governor General for a chance to reset parliament so that its committees and functions may represent the new reality.

The case for prorogation is constitutional.The case against it is political.

The Senate shall return

The House of Commons wrapped up last week to allow Members of Parliament to return to their ridings for the holidays to meet with constituents and spend time with family. Members will return to work in Ottawa in late January around the time of the Olympics.

Friday morning, most people were under the mistaken impression that Parliament had closed for the holidays. However, the Senate still sits.

The Senate sat all day Friday and went through until midnight Thursday night. Senators debated C-51, the HST and special benefits for self-employed workers. Despite the House of Commons shutting down on Thursday, the Senate still has half of one day’s business remaining including committee hearings and votes. Senator Gerald Comeau, the Deputy leader of the government in the Senate, proposed that the Senate sit through Saturday to finish the legislative agenda. However, his Liberal counterpart refused and the Senate will return to complete one half day’s work before senators go home for the holiday break.

What does this mean?

By delaying the completion of one half day’s work, over 100 senators went home for the weekend, many of them flying business class to reach their destinations only to return on Monday. A conservative estimate of travel costs for 100 pampered senators jetting to all corners of the country for the weekend to come back for a short wrap up would cost over $200,000 including associated taxi, per diem and hotel costs.

And the significance to the larger discussion? While we nickel and dime the expense claims of cabinet ministers in the spirit of accountability (as we should), the Senate flies below the radar of many Ottawa watchers. The Conservatives have been making the case against Liberal entitlement and for them the Senate has been an easy target. The return of more than 100 Senators to the Upper Chamber today may make the few hours of wrap up among some of the costliest in its history.

New Senators

The new senators:


Quebec

Claude Carignan

Judith Siedman

Jacques Demers

Ontario

Doug Finley

Linda Frum

New Brunswick

Carolyn Stewart-Olsen

Manitoba

Don Plett

Nova Scotia

Kelvin Ogilvie

Nunavut

Dennis Patterson

Senate appointments tomorrow

I’m hearing that the Prime Minister will be naming nine new senators tomorrow by 2:00pm.

Here are the party veterans that I’m hearing are sure bets
Manitoba – Don Plett
New Brunswick – Carolyn Stewart-Olson
Ontario – Doug Finley
Nova Scotia – Brooke Taylor
Quebec – Jacques Demers

In the running:
Ontario: Bob Runciman, David Braley
Quebec: Judith Siedman
Nunavut: Dennis Patterson

I’m still digging on this. If you’ve got any tips (anonymity guaranteed) please send them via email or bb pin.

UPDATE: Appointments will be announced between 1 and 2pm tomorrow
UPDATE: Brooke Taylor is a surer bet than Macdonald for NS from what I hear. Finley upgraded to a sure bet now that I’ve heard from more than a few sources.
UPDATE: Brooke Taylor sure bet for NS
UPDATE: Added David Braley to the shortlist of potential senators from Ontario
UPDATE: hearing rumour that the PM will only appoint 8 of 9 tomorrow, but cannot guess why
UPDATE: Senate seat from Nunavut open. Hearing that the PM met with appointee last week while on the northern tour
UPDATE: Added Dennis Patterson and Paul Okalik from Nunavut. Bet on Patterson.

Rally for Canada budget consultation survey results

On Friday, I sent out an email to the tens of thousands on the Rally for Canada email list asking them to participate in a small survey concerning the upcoming federal budget.  I asked people four questions concerning the government spending and their public policy priorities.  Over three thousand people responded on Friday and over the weekend.  I will be passing on the results to the office of the Minister of Finance as promised.

Q: On the question of Canada’s upcoming federal budget to get us through the economic crisis, which balance within the following options do you think is best for the government to implement? (n=3003)

Q: Which issues are most important to you from a government policy point of view? (n=3051)

Here is the same graph sorted in descending order (n=3051):

Q: What should be done with the Senate? (n=3007)

Q: What should be done with funding for the CBC? (n=2998)

Some notes: “n” is the number of respondents to each question.  Data was gathered from 8am Friday through midnight Sunday night.  Sample data is gathered from a population set that registered on the anti-coalition website RallyforCanada.ca between December 4th 2008 and January 9th 2009.  Answers were not randomly cycled.

That said, this data gives us insight into the priorities of Canadians who are against the concept of a Bloc-supported NDP-Liberal coalition government.  The first question was a careful balance on both sides of the spending vs. taxes debate.  On one hand, the answer set does not include an option to decrease spending and on the other, four out of five answers prompt at least some tax relief.  Most analysts believe that the federal budget will include some tax relief and stimulus in the form of government spending.  The largest group believed a balance spending/tax relief approach would be best while the second largest group favours substantial tax relief and no new spending (given the options presented).

The second question had 24 options.  Each option was a yes/no checkbox to pick public policy priorities.  There was little surprise on the distribution of public policy interests as the generally right-of-centre respondents selected jobs, economy, crime, tax cuts, healthcare choice, and military spending as priorities while passing on foreign aid, culture and arts, and native affairs.  Wheat board reform is generally a conservative priority yet this question is likely too regional for a national survey.

On the specific questions, it is of particular interest that 90% of respondents believe that the Senate in it’s current form must change.  Only 10% of respondents thought that the Senate ought to be left as it is.  On the question of spending for a particular budget item, respondents indicated that funding for the CBC should be decreased (61%) while only 6% thought it should be increased.

New Senators

Newfoundland and Labrador – Fabian Manning

Nova Scotia – Fred Dickson, Stephen Greene, Michael L. MacDonald

PEI – Mike Duffy

New Brunswick – Percy Mockler, John D. Wallace

Québec – Patrick Brazeau, Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis, Leo Housakos, Michel Rivard

Ontario – Nicole Eaton, Irving Gerstein

Saskatchewan – Pamela Wallin

British Columbia – Nancy Greene Raine, Yonah Martin, Richard Neufeld

Yukon – Hector Daniel Lang

UPDATE: Here is the backgrounder from the Prime Minister’s Office

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Backgrounder

LIST OF NEW SENATORS

Newfoundland and Labrador

Fabian Manning has dedicated his career to serving Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at all three levels of government.  A three term councilor in the town of St. Brides, Mr. Manning served as coordinator for the Cape Shore Area Development Association for three years.  Mr. Manning would go on to win three elections to the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly as the representative for Placentia – St. Mary’s.  Mr. Manning was subsequently elected as Member of Parliament in the federal constituency of Avalon in the 2006 Federal Election campaign.  Mr. Manning would go on to chair both the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans as well as the Conservative Government’s Atlantic caucus.

Nova Scotia

Fred Dickson, QC is both one of Nova Scotia’s most respected lawyers and one of Canada’s top legal experts on offshore resource development.  Mr. Dickson is counsel with the law firm of McInnes Cooper.   Mr. Dickson has advised the federal and provincial government’s on numerous resource and infrastructure projects, including serving as an advisor to the Government of Nova Scotia during the singing of the 1982 and 1985 Canada / Nova Scotia Offshore Oil and Gas Agreements.  Mr. Dickson remains active in these files as a Director of the Offshore / Onshore Technologies Association of Nova Scotia and Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships.

Stephen Greene has political and policy experience at both the federal and provincial levels.  Mr. Greene served as Chief of Staff in the Leader’s Office of the Reform Party of Canada from 1993 and 1996 during which he helped manage the opposition response to the national unity and fiscal issues of the day.  He went on to work as the Executive Director of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia.  For the past two years he has served as Principal Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff to Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald with wide responsibilities to help the Premier administer an effective government for all Nova Scotians.

Michael L. MacDonald is a Nova Scotia businessman who since 1988 has been the owner and President of Fleur de Lis Motel Ltd. Mr. MacDonald had previously served terms as executive assistant to two federal cabinet ministers and the premier of Nova Scotia.  A graduate of the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, Mr. MacDonald has been an activist and volunteer with the federal and provincial Conservative parties since university, and is presently Vice-President of the Conservative Party of Canada and a two-term representative for Nova Scotia on the party’s national executive. A native of Louisbourg, Mr. MacDonald is a long-time resident of Dartmouth where he resides with his wife and two teenaged sons.

Prince Edward Island

Michael Duffy is one of Canada’s most well known and respected news personalities and the current host of CTV’s daily program, Mike Duffy Live.  Mr. Duffy joined CBC Radio News in 1974, switched to CBC TV’s “The National” in 1978, and joined CTV in 1988.  He is a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.  Mr. Duffy is involved in a number of charitable activities both in Ottawa and in his home province, including the UPEI Building fund, and the current Holland College Foundation Fundraising campaign.  He has been a visiting fellow at Duke University; and has been twice nominated for the “Best in the Business” award by the Washington Journalism Review. Mr. Duffy has received many other awards and citations, and honourary degrees from the University of PEI; from Niagara University in Niagara Falls, NY; and from Wilfrid Laurier University in Brantford.

New Brunswick

Percy Mockler has been a long-time MLA in the New Brunswick legislature since he was first elected in 1982. During his time in the provincial legislature, Mr. Mockler served in a number of portfolio’s including Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Solicitor General and Minister of Human Resources  Development and Housing. Mr. Mockler is a former advisory member for trade opportunities strategy with the federal Department of External Affairs. He has also been active in community affairs as treasurer of local fish and wildlife associations, a director of the caisse populaire, and as a member and chair of his local school board.

John D. Wallace was born in Rothesay, NB and had a distinguished law career in St. John.  Most recently, he served for 7 years as Partner/Counsel at the law firm of Stewart McKelvey.  Previously he had been Corporate Counsel for Irving Oil Limited and a Partner at Palmer, O’Connell, Leger, Turnbull and Turnbull.  Mr. Wallace continued his community service after retiring from law.  He is a Member of the University of New Brunswick Board of Governors, the St. John Imperial Theatre Capital Campaign Cabinet and the New Brunswick Symphony Steering Committee. Mr. Wallace was the Telegraph-Journal Male Newsmaker of the Year in 2002 and became a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in 2003.

Quebec

Patrick Brazeau is a member of the Algonquin Nation and a citizen of the Indian reserve of Kitigan Zibi, near Maniwaki, Quebec. A champion of the rights of Aboriginals, in 2006, he was chosen as the National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. He used this forum to promote the economic and social development of Aboriginals, especially those who live off-reserve. Mr. Brazeau has a black belt in karate and was a member of the Naval Reserve on HMCS Carleton, in Ottawa.

Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis was born in Chicoutimi and studied at the École des Beaux-arts de Québec and at Laval University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and a certificate in college education. She was a teacher at the regional school board Louis-Fréchette. In 1981, she became the first woman to be elected to the Municipal Council of the City of Sainte-Foy. She became active in federal politics and was elected as the MP for the riding of Louis-Hébert from 1984 to 1993. Ms. Fortin-Duplessis has always been involved in the community. During her career, she was a member of the board of the Alzheimer Society and the Fondation de l’Opéra de Québec, and she is a member of the Laval hospital and the Saint-Sacrement hospital foundations. More recently, she was a volunteer for the International Eucharistic Congress.

Leo Housakos was born in Montreal and studied at Cégep Vanier and at McGill University, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in arts, with a major in political science and history. In 1993, he co-founded the Montreal Hellenic Chamber of Commerce and is currently a Director of Via Rail Canada.Throughout his business career he has held important management positions in several companies, including Quadvision Consultants and Terrau. Mr. Housakos is married and is the father of two children.

Michel Rivard studied in Quebec City and spent the most part of his professional life in public administration. He was President of the Corporation des maîtres entrepreneurs en réfrigération du Québec, then Mayor of Beauport from 1980 to 1984. Mr. Rivard was director of a number of organizations, and was President of the Executive Committee of the Communauté Urbaine de Québec. In 1994, he was elected at the Assemblée nationale as the MNA for Limoilou. He was Regional Delegate for the region of Quebec and parliamentary Assistant of the Minister responsible for the region of Quebec.

Ontario

Nicole Eaton has devoted much of her life to serving her community in varying degrees through her participation and leadership in a number of charitable organizations, foundations and the arts. Presently she is Director and Vice-Chair of St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, Director and Vice-Chair the National Ballet of Canada and Chair of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. Previously, Ms Eaton has served in varying capacities on a number of other organizations, including the Royal Ontario Museum, the George R. Gardiner Museum, the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and the Stratford Festival of Canada. Ms Eaton is also a columnist for the newspaper the National Post and is co-author of two publications.

Irving Gerstein, C.M., O. Ont is a businessman and corporate director.  A Member of both the Order of Canada the Order of Ontario, Mr. Gerstein has been involved in politics for over 40 years, including service as Chair of the Conservative Fund Canada. He is an Honorary Director of Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto), having previously served as Chairman of the Board, Chairman Emeritus, and a director over a period of twenty-five years.   He is a director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and a former Chairman of the Young Presidents Organization.   Mr. Gerstein graduated from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce, University of Pennsylvania, and attended The London School of Economics.

Saskatchewan

Pamela Wallin, O.C., S.O.M is an award winning journalist whose career stretches back more than three decades.  Ms. Wallin is most recognized from her time at CTV where she co-hosted Canada AM and later served as CTV’s Ottawa Bureau chief.  Ms. Wallin would subsequently form her own production company Pamela Wallin Productions Inc.   Ms. Wallin has remained active in public life as Chancellor of the University of Guelph and Senior Advisor on Canada-US relations to the President of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas.  In 2007, Prime Minister Harper appointed Ms. Wallin to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan. Ms. Wallin has agreed to step down as Senator and submit her name as a candidate when Saskatchewan holds its first legislated Senate election.

British Columbia

Nancy Greene Raine, O.C., OBC was Canada’s female athlete of the last century by the Canadian Press and Broadcast News.  She won gold and silver medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968. Her total of 14 World Cup victories (including the Olympics) is still a Canadian record. During her nine-year career Nancy won a total of 17 Canadian Championship titles. Since retiring from active competition, she has worked to promote the sport and was instrumental in the early development of the Whistler-Blackcomb Resort.  Since 1994 she has been Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks Resort and since 2005 she has been Chancellor of Thompson Rivers University.  Ms. Green Raine is an Officer of the Order of Canada, a member of both Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and Canada’s Walk of Fame.
Yonah Martin has deep roots in both Korean and Canadian heritage and has spent her life building bridges between different cultural communities in BC.  Born in Seoul, South Korea, before immigrating to Canada 1972, Ms. Martin is the co-founder of the Corean Canadian Coactive (C3) society and has served on the Multicultural Advisory Council of BC, the Vancouver Korean Canadian Scholarship Foundation, the Kateslem After School Club and the Coquitlam Festival Planners Network.   Ms. Martin has also been active in political life as a candidate in the constituency of New Westminster-Coquitlam.  In 2004 Ms. Martin received ‘Spirit of Community’ award for her service in the Tri-Cities Area.

Richard Neufeld has spent close to two decades in public service to the people of British Columbia.  First elected to represent the riding of Peace River North in 1991, Mr. Neufeld has been re-elected on three separate occasions.  Since 2001 Mr. Neufeld has served as British Columbia’s Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources.  Mr. Neufeld has also served as the on the council of Fort Nelson, including five years as mayor.  Prior to his involvement in public life, Mr. Neufeld owned and operated his own business.

Yukon

Hector Daniel Lang has made the Yukon his home for more than 50 years.  Born in 1948 in Dawson Creek, BC, he moved with his family to Whitehorse where he completed high school, and later attended the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.  First elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly in 1974, Mr Lang served 5 consecutive terms, retiring from the legislature in 1992.  Over the course of his 18 years in elected office he was responsible for numerous Ministerial portfolios and later served in the opposition.  Since 1992, Mr. Lang has worked as a Sales Associate in the Yukon Real Estate industry.  Active in community affairs, he is currently the Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors for Yukon College. He has four children and three grandchildren, who reside in Whitehorse. Mr Lang presently lives in Whitehorse with his partner Valerie Hodgson, a local artist.

Senate appointments expected today

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to announce 18 appointments to the Senate today.  A lot of the Ottawa-based media is either on break or anticipating to knock off for a few days for the Christmas holiday.  However, for those that are compelled to pay attention, a list of the appointments is expected around noon today before the Prime Minister flies off to Calgary for an event this afternoon.  Further, the Prime Minister’s press office was telling a few reporters last week that they expect the appointments to be made today.

This represents an unfortunate departure from the principle of an elected senate to make way for the growing urgency and practical necessity of addressing the uncertain balance of power within parliament – one that is within the Prime Minister’s constitutional right to address (or at least his right to make suggested picks to the Governor General).  Many Ottawa observers will note that the Prime Minister has held off on this decision until the 11th hour, until necessary pragmatism eclipsed principle on the issue of the unelected senate.  While the senate remains in its current form, the Prime Minister is making a defensive move to prevent an unelected coalition government from appointing 18 senators whenever they have the opportunity to flip the government by their procedural whim.

A raft of partisan appointments is expected today.  A top-of-mind criteria for the PM on senate appointments will be loyal.  The PM wants senators that will sit as partisans of a Conservative caucus and partisans that will work to execute the PM’s plan for senate reform.  In fact, every senator appointed today should commit to the following principles (and publicly):

1. The appointed senator should be prepared to run or resign their seat at the earliest opportunity when an election for senate is held in their home provice.

2. The senator should use the maximum resources available of their office to fight for senate reform and should act as ambassadors of senate reform in their home province.

Some believe that the Prime Minister will make a bi-partisan pick for the Senate, or make a move to reach across the aisle to appoint someone who is non-traditionally aligned like David Suzuki.  I don’t believe that this will happen.  Though Paul Martin appointed Conservative senator Hugh Segal, the majority balance of the senate was not in question at the time or in the near future.  Further, because of the urgency of these appointments, some breathing room is expected for the Prime Minister and gallery barbs will be focused on the size and timing of this set of senate appointments.

On the makeup of the PM’s picks, a few insiders that I have spoken to in a some provinces getting new senators today have said that the Prime Minister’s office has called and asked for suggestions for women and aboriginal senators.

One province where the PMO has not sought outside advice has been Ontario.  PMO appointments zipped up Ontario early and did not seek additional advice or vetting on picks for that province.  Everyone expects Irving Gerstein to get one of the two senate nods in Ontario.

My pick for Saskatchewan is Elwin Hermanson, the founder of the Saskatchewan Party.  However, informed speculation suggests that Barry Firby could be on the PM’s short list.  Firby is the Conservative Party’s regional organizer in that province.

New names that I’m hearing for Quebec include Patrick Brazeau and Myriam Taschereau.  Brazeau is the chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and Taschereau was a candidate for the Conservatives in Quebec City during the last election.  Brazeau would represent a non-partisan but ideologically-aligned pick for Prime Minister Harper.

In PEI, I’m hearing speculation that the Prime Minister may lean towards Patricia Mella, the former leader of the PC Party in that province.

If the PM does appoint new senators today, I’ll have the list up and we’ll see if we can digest his picks together.

Senate appointments

I’ve learned of some of the names that are on the Prime Minister’s short-list of potential senators. The PM is expected to name 17 or 18 senators within the next 7 days (according to the latest timetable).

In British Columbia, I’ve heard that olympian Nancy Greene is being considered by the PM.  A gold-medal-winning skier from the 1968 Grenoble olympics, the Prime Minister would be happy to name a Canadian champion to the senate that would underscore Canada’s role in welcoming the world to the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010. It is not yet known if Greene would accept the appointment.

Also in British Columbia, the Prime Minister is said to be looking at making an aboriginal appointment to the senate. Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos First Nations is said to be a name that is on the PM’s short list. Louie is an aboriginal leader who emphasizes increased self-reliance and a shift in responsibility for the way in which first nations communities deal with the state.

In Prince Edward Island, I’ve heard that the Prime Minister may be looking to a former Premier to sit in the senate. Pat Binns is currently the ambassador to Ireland and so, I’ve heard that the PM will look back further to find a senator. James Lee was the Progressive Conservative Premier from 1981-1986. PM Chretien named former PEI Premier Catherine Callbeck to the Senate in 1997, so now that a Senate seat is open to Harper in PEI, I’ve heard that the PM is considering Lee.