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A Poor First Impression

The re-appointment of losing federal candidates Fabian Manning and Larry Smith to the Senate does not speak well of them, or the new majority government, says Rex.



The re-appointment of losing federal candidates Fabian Manning and Larry Smith to the Senate does not speak well of them, or the new majority government, says Rex.

Do you agree with Rex, or have a different take on this subject?  Post your comment below.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

A Poor First Impression

May 19, 2011

If we sometimes deplore politicians I think we can sometimes admire them too - for having the courage to put things on the line, forgo a 'stable' life or career for the chance at elected politics. Chance is the word here - because elections offer no guarantees.

Which makes the case, or cases, of Stephen Harper's three newest and not-so-newest Senators so very interesting. Up until a couple of days ago all three were campaigning their eager little hearts out for election to the House of Commons, the political equivalent of trying to earn an honest dollar. Now, they're patronage ornaments in the bric-a-brac room we ludicrously call the 'Upper' Chamber.

Two of the three had done a great thing - they were sitting Senators - members of Canada's ripest old boys and girls club, the Canadian Senate. That high-stipend refuge and storage locker of burnt out partisan warriors, virtuoso sycophants, lickspittle aides and executive assistants, media hacks and assorted pals of the great and powerful, plus a few - a few - genuine public servants thrown into the mix like the little sheet you throw in the dryer to take the odour of rank politics and opportunism off all the rest.

The two who had done a great thing were Fabian Manning and Larry Smith, one of whom had failed in elected politics, ascended into heaven - sorry - been dumped in the Senate, but who willingly gave up the greatest patronage gig in all of Canadian politics to chance it once again with the electorate.

I thought this was great. Politicians - deliberately - throwing off a near-lifetime freebie, so the people could pass an honest verdict on them.

What virtue! What civic example! I was sure when either of these men went to the voters, the voters in turn would look at them and say, "Here are two that have done the right thing, come back to the voters and asked, do you want us in Ottawa or not?"

The voters, as sometimes they do, said no. But, here's the rub.  Neither Smith nor Manning have even had time to take down their campaign posters and they're back in the saddle again. They haven't been out of the Senate long enough for their red-cushioned seats to get cold and they're back. Was this a game? A pathetic charade of resignation for effect?   Did they actually know if they lost, they'd win? Probably not. We're told that would be illegal. But deep in Larry's yearning heart, and equally deep in Fabian's, was there not some intimation that a grateful Prime Minister would not - could not - should they lose the election, leave two such fine servants out in the cold?

Does it look good on this new majority administration? No, it doesn't. It looks shabby, cheap and cute.

For The National, I'm Rex Murphy.