Inside Politics

Safe return to the Senate launching pad

Why would anyone ever resign from the Senate? It's a job for life, sits 90 days a year, summers are off, retirement is not mandatory 'til 75 and the pension is generous as well as fully indexed.

Well, that is, unless you can resign then get re-appointed. That's the case now with Larry Smith and Fabian Manning.

In fact, in recent years, at least four senators have resigned to run in a federal election, meaning no severance pay and no pension at all.

What motivated them so fervently to want to become MPs, one has to wonder.

Some have suggested that if Senate reform were to miraculously come about, the relatively new senators would selflessly resign to run for their Senate seats, even though legally they wouldn't have to.

But who knew that some senators would resign on demand to run as MPs?

When you think of it, what better place to quietly start organizing a campaign than from the Senate, a job that pays well but isn't exhaustively demanding.

Of course, running as a former senator doesn't guarantee a win. Michael Fortier, appointed by Stephen Harper in 2006, discovered that fact to his chagrin after he resigned from the Senate and then was beaten soundly by the Bloc Québécois in 2008.

And Bernie Boundreau of Nova Scotia, appointed by Jean Chretien, sat in the Senate for merely a year before running as an MP in 2000, only to lose not just the race, but the shot at the Senate pension as well, which requires six years service.

Even so, when it comes to knocking on the doors of potential donors, or lining up a campaign staff, with the mechanics of plotting the ground war so vital for electoral success, the Senate is not a bad launching pad. And it's all perfectly legal.

The recent election saw two new senators running for a spot in the House of Commons, with, possibly, elevation to Cabinet if they and their party prevailed.

Fabian Manning, a Newfoundland MP who was defeated in 2008, seemed to have accepted a Senate post from Stephen Harper just to tide him over between elections. After a short hiatus in the Senate chamber he ran for his old seat in Avalon. He lost again.

And Larry Smith, named by Harper to the Senate at Christmas, announced just days after his appointment he'd be seeking the Conservative nomination in Lac-Saint-Louis. No word on why, with that goal in mind, he bothered to accept a Senate seat at all. But he lost as well on May 2.

No matter: both are back in the Senate, with a chance of building up a pension, or maybe, planning a run in the next federal election four years from now.

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