PM had 'no choice' but to appoint senators: Greene Raine

Canadian Olympic icon Nancy Greene Raine says Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to make a rash of Senate appointments if he was ever going to make any inroads on reforming the upper chamber.

Canadian Olympic icon Nancy Greene Raine says Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to make a rash of Senate appointments if he was ever going to make any inroads on reforming the upper chamber.

"It's obvious to me that he had no choice, really, because if he wants to get the Senate reformed he has to put people there that are willing to [reform]," said Greene Raine, who was one of 18 Canadians named to the Senate on Monday.

Greene Raine, who won gold and silver medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968, was an early Reform party member who, like Harper, has advocated an elected Senate.

"The Senate is definitely lopsided right now, with so many more Liberal members than Conservative members. So I think it is important that this step be taken and certainly I think everybody can be assured that it's on its way to being changed so long as things keep going in this direction."

In a release, Harper said all incoming senators had promised to support eight-year term limits and other Senate-reform legislation. Harper said he made the appointments at this time to prevent a potential Liberal-NDP coalition government from getting the opportunity to fill the seats.

Although Greene Raine said she couldn’t remember if the prime minister asked his candidates to pledge their support for his vision for change, she said he was definitely looking for people who believe in Senate reform.

The British Columbian said she's been reading up on the history of the Senate and the original reasons for having the body unelected don't hold.

'We've had great parliamentarians'

"In the early days, they chose to have the English model of an upper House that was appointed, because they weren't sure that the common people could elect good people," she said.

"That's certainly been proven wrong .… We've had great parliamentarians over the years so I would say that an elected senate makes a lot of sense."

She said she has a lot to learn but stressed she is "not going down on a holiday."

"I certainly don't need the job, but it is interesting to be able to be kind of centre-of-the-action without going through all the process of being elected. I have a lot of respect for politicians who have to go out and run campaigns and get elected, and that is a tough thing to do."

Raine's appointment was one of a number of high-profile picks that included former broadcaster Pamela Wallin and CTV broadcaster Mike Duffy.

Duffy told CTV's Canada AM that Harper called him and asked what he thought of reforming the Senate.

"I said you've got to either kill it or cure it because it's not really functioning the way it is now. And he said well, would you be interested in being appointed?"

"I said 'I'm not much of a partisan.' He said 'We've got lots of partisans, we don't need any more partisans; what we need is people who believe in Senate reform. You believe in Senate reform and therefore that's what I'm looking for,' and I said 'OK.'"

Duffy said he was at first reluctant to take the post, but said he thought he would need a new creative outlet when he retired from journalism, which could be in the next few years.