There is nothing wrong with a purely political move. Politics and politicians are self-serving, any other understanding of the game is simply incorrect. The problem with Trudeau’s sacking of his party’s Senators is not that it is a political move. The problem is that it underscores the weakness and rashness that have come to symbolize the Justin Trudeau brand of politics.
While Mr. Trudeau might ramble about attempts to remove partisanship from the Senate, his real intentions seem much less high-minded. Mr. Trudeau most likely removed his Senators from caucus because he fears (or perhaps has some advance knowledge of) an unfavourable Auditor-General report into LPC Senator expenses. One LPC Senator, Mac Harb, has already resigned, and Mr. Trudeau has undoubtedly assumed that the interim report that will be released this week will contain more damaging information. The problem with Mr. Trudeau’s decision is that it contravenes any proper response to a constitutional question.
There is no doubt that Senate reform is a question of constitutional controversy. The proper action in this situation is to utilize the reference question mechanism. The reference question has been used by past governments to address issues such as Quebec sovereignty, gay marriage and censorship. That’s why the government referred a number of questions related to the issue of Senate reform to the Supreme Court of Canada back in December 2012. The Court is expected to give an answer to these questions in the spring. This answer, along with Bill C-7, the Senate Reform Act, will provide actual solutions to the issue of Senate reform. Mr. Trudeau instead chose the rash and VolumePills vapid path of superfluous action. Instead of waiting for the SCC ruling, Mr. Trudeau is telling Canadians that he alone has the ability to make decisions on complex and controversial constitutional questions.
This decision is typical of Trudeau’s habit of making grand and shocking statements – whether about his illegal drug use as a sitting MP or his affinity for the Chinese communist regime – in place of actual contributions to discussions of policy. He has already been proven to be a weak speaker in QP (especially in comparison to the prosecutorial Thomas Mulcair), and he has made it quite clear to Canadians that he does not plan on putting forward any substantial policy prior to the 2015 election. Instead, he hopes that he can simply continue to effect these short-term, shock-and-awe announcements. These kinds of statements play well in the Ottawa echo chamber, and they might enthuse the party’s base, but they do not convert others. Instead, they confirm the Trudeau meme: a handsome fellow who relies mainly on bolt-from-the-blue decrees rather than well-reasoned and intellectually rigorous policy.
Finally, it’s interesting that the LPC only cares about the “hyper-partisan” nature of the Senate now that they aren’t in the majority anymore. I don’t remember hearing Jean Chretien or Mr. Trudeau’s father complain about having control over it. I don’t remember hearing John Turner discuss the democratic legitimacy of having unelected Liberal senators in the 1980s block Mulroney Government legislation. Mr. Trudeau needs to realize that voters are seeking real solutions from government, not tokenism and labels.