And while it’s all fine and good in theory, and in light of the seemingly unending senate scandals Canadians have been exposed to in recent weeks, what Trudeau has actually accomplished with this announcement isn’t clear.
The ousting of the senators from the party has revealed a crack in the Liberal foundation Trudeau probably wishes was still hidden. The senators are refusing to stand as independents, and have announced they are still part of the Liberal Party of Canada, in spite of what Trudeau says. (Formerly) Liberal senator George Furey told media outlets, “Justin Trudeau has no authority or authorization to determine my status in the chamber. I determine that.”
The sentiment appears to be cutting the legs out from Trudeau’s grand vision of a senate full of independent politicians voting their conscience instead of the colour of their lapel pins–a vision he voted against when it was first suggested by the NDP but has since embraced.
After all, there hasn’t really been much of a change in how the “formerly known as Liberal Party” senators conduct their affairs.
If they are still members of the party, as they claim, they get to keep using the secret Liberal handshake, hang out with their Liberal buddies at conventions and fundraisers, and refer to themselves as “Canada’s natural ruling party” (in private, of course).
One thing this announcement has purged the Liberal Party of is western representation. In banishing their senate, the party loses seven senators from western Canada and one from the Northwest Territories. Now they have to rely on their MPs for that representation. All four of them. Two from the city-state of Vancouver, one from Saskatchewan, and one from Manitoba. Zero from Alberta.
But if there’s one thing the Liberals have long since known, it’s that you really don’t need the support of western Canadians as long as you can snag enough seats in Quebec and Ontario.
He also lost some long-time Liberals in the process, organizers, activists, and fundraisers, which the party will not easily replace. And as national media makes room for the comments of these poor, displaced senators – many of them on their own for the first time in their lives – he has lost face and become the brunt of ridicule.
With an auditor general’s report on senate spending expected to come any day now, it has been pointed out there could be some pre-emptive damage control going on by the Liberals, an opportunity to distance themselves from further senate scandals by telling Canada they have already washed their hands of the entire process.
We think Canadians are too smart for those kinds of party tricks, and any smear on (former) Liberal senators will still splash back on the party itself. Should this be the actual truth of the matter, the entire thing could blow up in Trudeau’s face.
At least now the Liberals have a horse in the senate debate, so-to-speak, and are no longer seen as having no stance at all on the subject. Trudeau is at the table when it comes to reform discussion, and, in fact, has carved himself the biggest slice of senate reform-pie of all the big parties in the Canadian political landscape.
He has actually done something about senate reform, and neither the NDP nor the Conservative Party of Canada can say the same.
He has also shown to the country that this Liberal Party is not that same old, bloated, and corrupt party of the Chretien and Martin eras, and the Liberal Party is becoming leaner by eating its own fat reserves so it can continue to claw its way to prominence once more in Canadian politics.
One only hopes, for the sake of the party, that Trudeau knows when to stop eating before there’s nothing left.