CTV broadcaster Mike Duffy, former broadcaster Pamela Wallin and Olympic icon Nancy Greene Raine were among 18 Canadians sworn in to the Senate on Monday.

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Senator Pamela Wallin waits for the start of the Speech from the Throne ceremony in the Senate chamber on Monday. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press))

The senators received the oath of office shortly before Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean was set to open a new session of Parliament with a speech from the throne.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said he made the appointments days before Christmas to prevent a potential Liberal-NDP coalition government from getting the opportunity to fill the seats.

Opposition parties slammed the prime minister for making the appointments during a time when Parliament was prorogued. Harper was also accused of hypocrisy since he has always maintained that senators should be elected.

Harper defended his decision, saying that all incoming senators have promised to support eight-year term limits and other Senate-reform legislation. The government has also said nominees are expected to resign and run for their seats if their designated province ever introduces elections.

But some of his choices have sparked controversy.

Duffy pick criticized

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Senator Mike Duffy embraces Senator Joyce Fairbairn prior to the Speech from the Throne on Parliament Hill on Monday. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press))

The appointment of Duffy, selected to the single vacant P.E.I. seat, has drawn some criticism from Islanders who wondered how connected he will be to Island issues. Although he was born and grew up in Charlottetown and started his career on the Island, Duffy has lived in Ontario for years.

The PMO has said Duffy will move back to Charlotteown , where he owns a home with his brother, but will likely keep his Ottawa home.

Another controversial pick is Patrick Brazeau. The former head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is facing a sexual harassment complaint before a human rights tribunal, charges he has dismissed as "100 per cent false."

Liberals also criticized Harper’s pick of Michel Rivard, one of four Quebecers named to the Senate. Critics said the choice of Rivard, a former politician with the separatist Parti Québécois, contradicted Harper's anti-separatist rhetoric during the recent constitutional crisis.

Wallin, who fills the only open Saskatchewan seat,  was at one time consul general to New York, after being appointed in 2002 by the Liberal government.

Greene Raine won medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Winter Olympics, breaking the European stranglehold on the sport. She takes one of three vacant B.C. seats just before her province hosts the 2010 Olympics.

Well-connected partisans

Many of the regionally distributed seats went to well-connected Conservative partisans, including businessman Irving Gerstein (Ontario), former Progressive Conservative MP Suzanne Fortin-Duplessis (Quebec) and former MP Fabian Manning (Newfoundland and Labrador).

Also among the appointees for the three B.C.-designated seats was Richard Neufeld, minister of energy, mines and petroleum in the Liberal provincial government. Though he's a B.C. Liberal, he's considered a supporter of the federal Tories.

Others named to the Senate include:

  • Fred Dickson, lawyer (Nova Scotia).
  • Stephen Greene, former deputy chief of staff to N.S. Premier Rodney MacDonald (Nova Scotia).
  • Michael L. MacDonald, businessman (Nova Scotia).
  • Percy Mockler, long-serving MLA and cabinet minister (New Brunswick). 
  • John D. Wallace, lawyer (New Brunswick).
  • Leo Housakos, director of Via Rail Canada  (Quebec).
  • Nicole Eaton, member of the prominent Eaton family (Ontario).
  • Yonah Martin, co-founder of the Corean Canadian Coactive (C3) Society  (British Columbia).
  • Hector Daniel Lang, former Yukon MLA  (Yukon).

Standings in the 105-seat Senate are 59 Liberals, 38 Conservatives, five Independents and three Progressive Conservatives. Harper could name 11 more senators by year's end.

With files from the Canadian Press