The Senate has moved the final vote on the controversial anti-terror bill to Tuesday at 5:30pm EST. Coincidentally that will be hours after the Auditor General’s report on Senate expenses is due out which will shake the nations confidence of the red chamber to its core. Go figure!
Canadians of all stripes have written into their senators expressing concern on this bill, myself included. I think on Tuesday it will become very clear to the Canadian public just how much the Senate cares about our public purse, let alone prior public opinion as a result of the Auditor General’s report. The Senate has already over the past year passed two bills; the cyber bullying bill and bill S4 which have tremendous constitutional and privacy issues attached to them. The Canadian public needs to keep this in mind come Tuesday’s vote of the new anti-terror bill (if the vote actually does take place).
Why the delay of the vote on the new anti-terror bill? Political optics are going to be critical for the Senate to try to control the messaging around this current expense crisis. What a perfect political opportunity it would be for the Senate to vote down the anti-terror bill and send it back to the house on consititional grounds with a lot of eyes on the Senate due to the expense report. Politically it would the perfect pivot off of the Auditor General’s expense report, to the vote down of the new anti-terror bill. This would essentially limit (or try too) the impact of the expense report, control the messaging though media headlines (although I doubt it will work that way), and try to show Canadians that indeed the red chamber is Canada’s sober second thought.
Traditionally, the Senate is supposed to reject legislation that is not constitutionally sound. Canadian senators have in very recent times neglected that duty, and are essentially lap dogs to their respected parties by voting on party lines, not on constitutional grounds. The Senate has passed bills over Harper’s reign that have been consistently shut down by the Supreme Court on constitutional issues. Canadians need to be very cautious if in fact the senate votes down the new anti-terror bill. If the Senate was legitimately concerned about public opinion, the bill would have not passed yesterday; instead the vote was delayed until hours after the public release of the Auditor General’s expense report.
At this stage in the game I think it wouldn’t be at all politically possible for the Senate to pass the anti-terror bill. Due to the constitutional issues attached to it, a vote for the bill will put the red chambers very existence into question. The NDP is the only party running on a platform of dealing with the senate, and passing the new anti-terror law would basically make case and point for the NDP on senate abolishment. If they are not our chamber of sober second thought in charge of up-holding constitutional law, and we continue to see legislation passed by the Senate that isn’t constitutionally sound, than why pay them to sit there if they are not doing their jobs and abusing the public purse?
With the bleed over to the NDP from both the Conservative and Liberal support of the new anti-terror bill in recent polls (most recent Ekos Poll show NDP now clearly leading nationwide) passage of the anti-terror bill in the senate would solidify the public’s perception of the red chamber and could possibly see the NDP numbers rise to majority status ahead of an election. So senators that would vote for the bill; the logic states they would be rightfully voting themselves out of a job.
If all it takes is an Auditor General’s report on senators expenses for these twits in the red chamber to care about public opinion and our constitutional rights, than maybe we should have the Auditor General look into the expenses of House of Commons MPs annually starting with the Conservatives and the Liberals. Maybe then would we end up getting law that isn’t consistently shot down by our courts on constitutional grounds, and public opinion would matter at least once a year instead of a few months before MPs start begging on wounded knee for our votes.
Sure senate reform, or abolishment is a must (I’m for both), but those MPs who criticize the senate now should also be open to their own expenses being audited as well. It’s not just the senate that is sworn to uphold her majesty’s law and constitution; it’s those who write the laws, and vote in the House of Commons that hold that ultimate responsibility to which they are held accountable by the public every four to five years.
To put it all into blunt perspective, if in fact on Tuesday the Senate does vote down the new anti-terror bill, it’s an attempt to save their own asses, not due to public concern or pressure. Either way, the Senate needs to be dealt with by all political parties in election platforms. I’ll be looking for the party that goes that one step further and starts to put fiscal accountability on MPs in their political platforms.
There is going to be a lot of spin by a lot of groups that opposed this bill, and have being fighting the good fight against it. If in fact that spin turns into the Senate caring about public opinion, than we continue to feed that spoiled child who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and will do almost anything to get away with it. Instead these groups should take this opportunity to work with the Senate to ensure going forward, the public has an open line of communication with their senators, and start crowd sourcing on ideas to senate reform and how to make the red chamber more accountable to the public it serves, or abolish it.