Mulcair dismisses Harper's '11th hour' Senate conversion
NDP leader reacts to prime minister's moratorium on Senate appointments
Stephen Harper's moratorium on the appointment of Senators amounts to an "eleventh hour conversion," according to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
The prime minister made a surprise announcement Friday that he would not name any more senators until the Red Chamber is reformed, adding he hopes his stance will put pressure on the provinces to figure out a plan to update the institution.
"I'm not going to complain and I guess that imitation is the highest form of flattery," Mulcair said in an interview on CBC Radio's The House airing Saturday.
But Mulcair made it clear that it was his party's policy on the Senate that came first.
"He's not leap-frogging over me," Mulcair said. "The NDP position [on the Senate] goes back to our predecessor, the CCF, so we've been at this awhile."
Harper last appointed a senator more than two years ago, and 22 of the Senate's 105 seats are currently vacant.
"We'll entrench it simply in this way, which is we're just not going to make the appointments," Harper said. "It will force the provinces over time — who as you know have been resistant to any reforms, in most cases — to either come up with a plan of comprehensive reform or to conclude that the only way to deal with the status quo is abolition."
As an MP with the Reform Party, Harper argued against having an unelected Senate. Since taking office in 2006, he has appointed 59 senators.
It's a track record Mulcair said speaks for itself.
"In 2004, Harper said he wouldn't appoint a senator," he said. "But in the intervening 11 years, he broke the record and named 59 of his cronies to the Senate."
"He seems to have had an eleventh hour conversion, probably based on some focus groups and some polling, but nobody's going to be fooled," Mulcair added.
"Everybody knows that the Senate scandals are the fault of Stephen Harper."
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Friday night that both the NDP and the Conservatives "are posturing for a popular position that has actually no capacity of happening.
"Abolition requires negotiation with the provinces, constitutional haranguing that will take us through ten years."
The Senate is currently dealing with a spate of scandals, including the expense-related criminal cases against suspended Tory senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, as well as former Liberal senator Mac Harb. Pamela Wallin, who was appointed by Harper, is under investigation and has not been charged.
A recent audit of senator's expenses put the Senate back in the spotlight, as did recent questions about Conservative-appointed senator Don Meredith following a report in the Toronto Star alleging he had an affair with a teenager.