Three prominent British Columbians received Christmas plums Monday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper named 18 people to the Senate.
The province's Senate appointees are former Olympic skier Nancy Greene Raine; Richard Neufeld, minister of energy, mines and petroleum in the Liberal provincial government; and Korean-Canadian community activist Yonah Martin.
And while the three B.C. appointments run the gamut with their public profiles, like the other 15 appointees, they are all considered to be supporters of the federal Conservative party.
Greene Raine 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, remains a Canadian record.
She went on to play a key role in the development of the Whistler/Blackcomb ski resort before moving to work as director of skiing at the Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops and later becoming chancellor of the nearby Thompson Rivers University.
Richard Neufeld has been B.C.'s minister of energy, mines and petroleum since 2001. He was first elected to represent the riding of Peace River North in 1991.
Neufeld also served on the town council of Fort Nelson, including five years as mayor. He is expected to resign his seat in the legislature when he is sworn in as a senator in January.
Yonah Martin is a Coquitlam schoolteacher who has been active in the Korean-Canadian community. She served on the Multicultural Advisory Council of B.C. and ran as a Conservative candidate in the constituency of New Westminster-Coquitlam in the last election, but lost by 1,500 votes to NDP incumbent Dawn Black.
About-face for PM
Harper's appointments marks a significant departure from his long-held position that Senate members should be elected. The prime minister, again heading a minority government, said he filled the vacancies to prevent a potential Liberal-NDP coalition from getting the opportunity.
He had held off filling the 18 vacancies in hopes of reforming the Senate to make sure members are elected, but he has been unable to pass any legislation to that effect.
The appointments give the Conservatives more clout in the Liberal-dominated upper chamber, but they are still short of controlling the un-elected body. There are now 58 senators with ties to the Liberal party, compared with 38 Conservative loyalists.
The appointees will receive a $134,000 annual salary, indexed to inflation until they retire or reach age 75, followed by a comfortable pension, also indexed to inflation.