Prime Minister Stephen Harper has bolstered his party's ranks in the Senate ahead of a crucial vote next week by appointing a former Toronto-area Conservative candidate to the Red Chamber.

Harper's naming of realtor and artist Salma Ataullahjan to fill a vacancy for Ontario on Friday should give the Conservatives enough senators to reinstate contentious provisions that were stripped this week from Bill C-9, the government's massive budget implementation bill.

With her appointment, which is effective immediately, the Conservatives now have 52 of the Senate's 105 seats, bringing them equal to the number of Liberals and Independents combined. 

On Thursday, Conservative Senator Doug Finley said the Tories were ready to fight a fall election over the stripped provisions, which he insisted are critical to allow federal money to reach provinces and infrastructure projects.

But the opposition senators say the stripped provisions to allow for the potential privatization of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and to end Canada Post's monopoly on international mail didn't belong in budget legislation.

Breakdown for 105-seat Senate

Conservative 52
Liberal 49
Progressive Conservative 2
Independent or non-aligned 2

Ataullahjan, who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan in 1979, lost to Liberal MP Navdeep Bains in the southern Ontario riding of Mississauga-Brampton South in the 2008 federal election.

In a release announcing her appointment Friday, the prime minister said Ataullahjan's political and social activism has "earned her a reputation of one who both stands against violence and stands for peaceful dialogue and consensus building."

Harper also said she has pledged to support the Conservative government's efforts to make the Senate "more democratic and accountable," including legislation to limit Senate tenures and to allow provinces to elect their senators.

The prime minister has often stated his goal to either reform the Senate into an elected body or abolish it. But in recent months, Harper has appointed several new senators to gain a plurality in the chamber and gain control of Senate committee chair positions from the Liberals.

Overhauling the Senate requires constitutional reform, which means the government has to persuade seven provinces containing at least 50 per cent of the population that its plan is in the best interests of everyone.

Ataullahjan founded the parents council at David Lewis Public School in the Toronto area and also served on the executive of the Pakistani Canadian Professionals and Academics.

She also served as president and vice-president of the Canadian Pushtun Cultural Association, and as a member of the executive of the South Asian Regional Council and Citizens Foundation's Toronto chapter.

Ataullahjan is married and has two daughters.

With files from The Canadian Press