1990: Mulroney stacks Senate to pass the GST
• The section allows for the addition of four or eight Senate seats upon the direction of the Queen.
• Mulroney's appointments brought the total number of senators to 112, up from 104.
• Before the move, there were 52 Liberals, 46 Tories, one Reform party member and five independents.
• The appointments gave the Tories an instant majority with 54 Senators.
• The swelling of the Senate was never intended to be permanent; through retirements it eventually shrank back to the normal complement of 105.
• The Senate appointments were the latest of many for Mulroney. When he took office in 1984, Liberal senators outnumbered Conservatives by almost three to one.
• Mulroney's daring bid worked. The federal Liberals and some provinces fought the move in the courts but failed to convince them the appointments were unconstitutional. After a long, noisy filibuster by Liberal senators, the Conservative majority passed the seven-per-cent goods and services tax. The national sales tax came into effect in January 1991.
• However, widespread dislike of the GST helped sink public approval ratings for Mulroney and his party. Mulroney retired from office before the 1993 election that saw the party decimated under his successor, Kim Campbell.
• No prime minister had previously used the Section 26 provision but one - Alexander Mackenzie, a Liberal -- had tried. In 1873, Mackenzie asked Queen Victoria to allow for the appointment of six additional senators, saying it was "desirable in the public interest." She refused.
• Liberal leader Jean Chrétien chided Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn and Queen Elizabeth II for acquiescing to Mulroney's request for more senators. "We think there is doubt about the discretion that should have been used by the Queen or by the Governor-General -- apparently there was none," Chrétien told reporters in October 1990.
• Three years later Chrétien was elected prime minister promising to replace the GST, a pledge that was never fulfilled.
• The eight Conservative senators appointed by Brian Mulroney on Sept. 27, 1990 were:
- Wilbert Keon, an Ottawa heart surgeon
- Michael Meighen, a Toronto lawyer
- Normand Grimard, a Trois-Rivières, Que., lawyer
- Thérèse Lavoie-Roux, a former cabinet minister in the Quebec Liberal party
- James Ross, a New Brunswick lawyer and businessman
- Michael Forrestall, a former Nova Scotia MP
- Janis Johnson, a Winnipegger and former federal Tory party director
- Eric Berntson, a former deputy premier of Saskatchewan
• As of July 2005, half of Mulroney's precedent-setting appointees -- Keon, Meighen, Forrestall and Johnson -- were still senators. One of the others, Berntson, resigned his seat in 1991 after being convicted of filing bogus expense claims while he was a cabinet minister in the government of Saskatchewan Premier Grant Devine.
• Mulroney named a ninth senator on Sept. 27, 1990 -- Alberta Indian chief Walter Twinn -- who replaced a retired senator and was not part of the Senate expansion.
Last updated: April 10, 2013
Page consulted on April 16, 2013
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