Tom Mulcair says some senators willing to work with NDP government

Tom Mulcair says his party has been approached by some senators willing to work with an NDP government to pass legislation — even after he railed against the upper chamber for doing "nothing" of importance.

NDP Leader says some senators have come forward to say they'd help move legislation through Senate

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has made railing against the Senate and its members a hallmark of his tenure as leader of the Opposition.

Tom Mulcair has said he will abolish the Senate if elected but, until that happens, he says he has a number of a senators on call who would be willing to work with a New Democratic government to pass legislation. 

"There are senators in there who have already come to us to say they will help [pass our legislative agenda]," the NDP leader said in French during an interview with Radio-Canada's Les Coulisses Du Pouvoir. "They have already come forward saying that if we need it, they're there to help." 

Mulcair refused to name the senators, saying he'd reveal those details after the Oct. 19 election.

Brad Lavigne, a senior strategist working with the NDP, confirmed Sunday that the campaign had been approached by senators willing to work with them.

"Not the ones in jail or under an RCMP investigation but — yes — there are some," who would pilot bills through the Senate, Lavigne said during a panel discussion with Rosemary Barton of CBC News Network's Power and Politics. 

"And if they held up legislation from a democratically elected government then it would only highlight the need for us to abolish it," Lavigne said. 

Mulcair: 'They do nothing of use'

And while there might be some NDP-leaning senators in the so-called chamber of sober second thought, Mulcair said he'd never welcome any of them into his caucus.

"There will be no NDP senators. It would be a contradiction of our fundamental principles," he said. "We are against non-elected officials passing laws." 

Mulcair has made railing against the Senate and its members a hallmark of his tenure as leader of the Opposition. 

In an interview with Barton in June, he said he had "never" met a senator doing important parliamentary work. He said he believes the Senate does "absolutely nothing."

NDP leader Thomas Mulcair says he's "never" met a Senator doing important parliamentary work. Is the NDP's plan to scrap the Senate realistic? 9:40

"It costs a $100 million a year to keep those people doing nothing useful in a democracy. They do nothing of use for this country. Not only are they undemocratic and unelected — they're mostly defeated candidates. They've been rejected by the public.

"What moral authority do they have to make laws for the rest of us?"

The party nearly added a senator to its caucus in 2005 when then-prime minister Paul Martin appointed Lillian Dyck of Saskatchewan to the upper chamber. Dyck wanted to sit as a New Democrat but was rebuffed by then-leader Jack Layton. She opted to sit as an "Independent NDP" until 2009 when she joined the Liberal Party caucus. 

"In my naiveté, I decided to become a New Democratic Party senator, but was immediately rejected," Dyck wrote on her website. "They had not bothered to contact me to enquire about my senate appointment. In fact, they did not do their homework." 

Abolishing will take '5 to 10 years'

And while Mulcair has made abolishing the Senate a priority, it will take a series of protracted constitutional negotiations with the provinces to actually put an end to the upper chamber. 

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled last fall that unanimous provincial consent would be required to abolish the Senate, not to mention consent from both the House of Commons and the Red Chamber itself. 

Mulcair said Sunday he would not shy away from the hard work abolition would require, pointing to his efforts as a provincial Liberal cabinet minister to reform the Quebec school system, which required a constitutional amendment. 

So far, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne have signaled they have issues with the NDP proposal

And Mike Harcourt, a former NDP premier of B.C., said Sunday, in an interview with Barton on Sunday, that it would likely take at least five to 10 years before the Senate was abolished. 

Former B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt tells Power & Politics it will take 5 - 10 years to get all the provinces on board in abolishing the Senate. Watch the full interview Sunday on CBC News Network and CBC TV. 0:40

"I'm in favour of a triple-A Senate, abolish, abolish, abolish," Harcourt said. "It may take five or 10 years. You start with the willing, you go to the provinces like Saskatchewan and some of the other provinces that have made it very clear they want to get rid of the Senate. You work your way out from there." 

"I don't think there are very many Canadians who want to keep the unelected Senate, particularly with the terrible behaviour of a number of them over the last few years.

"It's a disgraced institution and it's one that we should abolish," he said. 

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