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Elected Senate promised by Harper

[PoliticsWatch Updated 4:00 p.m. December 14, 2005]

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper 

OTTAWA  — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper promised Wednesday that he would appoint elected senators to the upper chamber if elected prime minister. 

"In the 21st century, those who want to sit in the Parliament of a democratic state should have a mandate from the people," Harper said. 

"The prime minister currently holds a virtually free hand in the selection of senators. As prime minister, I will use that power to establish a federal process for electing senators."

Alberta has already held three elections for senators in waiting. In 1990, then prime minister Brian Mulroney appointed Stan Waters, who was elected in Alberta, to fill one of Alberta's Senate seats. Prime Minister Paul Martin and former prime minister Jean Chretien have not appointed the senators Alberta has elected since then. 

Harper's promise doesn't change much constitutionally, but is a commitment by him to obey the wishes of those provinces that hold Senate elections. 

Senators are currently appointed for what is essentially a life-time term that ends when they turn turn 75. 

Harper said creating fixed-terms for senators will be a priority. 

And he promised further Senate reform in the future. 

"Once we start electing senators, we will engage the provinces and Canadian voters to start building a consensus on a more comprehensive senate reform."

Harper also introduced two other democratic reform initiatives, including a fixed-election date law based on the B.C. model that requires fixed election dates every four years, except when a government loses the confidence of the House. 

He also said he would put and end to "parachute" candidacies in local ridings by requiring candidates that run in the federal election have the approval of members of the riding. 

Prime Minister Paul Martin said Tuesday that he is in favour of reforming the Senate, but wouldn't do it piecemeal. 

"It would require fundamental constitutional reform, and until such time as the provinces are prepared to deal with that issue . . then I'm not prepared to proceed with it," he said. 

"Yes, I'm in favour of an elected Senate, but I'm not in favour of partial reform."

The Bloc Quebecois is ambivalent about Senate reform since their main ambition is creating a separate Quebec. 

NDP Leader Jack Layton repeated Wednesday that his party does not support the existence of the Senate. 

Liberals face more allegations of plagiarism


First it was a Quebec improv theatre executive who said the latest Liberal TV ads off were a rip off his concept of an improvisational game involving people wearing hockey jerseys. 

Now the NDP war room has found some similarities between Liberal party press releases on softwood lumber and a federal government press release from November 24. 

The NDP asks people if they can spot the differences in a number of press releases, including these two. 

LIBERAL PRESS RELEASE - December 14, 2005

"The Forest Industry Competitiveness Strategy…. invests in the longer-term innovation and productivity needs of the forest industry to sustain its competitiveness. It also provides new funding to address the current challenges facing workers, industry and communities." 

OR

GOVERNMENT PRESS RELEASE - November 24, 2005

"The Forest Industry Competitiveness Strategy invests in the longer-term innovation and productivity needs of the forest industry to sustain its competitiveness. It also provides new funding to address the challenges facing workers, industry and communities." 

"We have the following questions," the NDP says. 

"1. Will the government of Canada take any action against the Liberal party for plagiarism?

"2. Will the Liberal Party reimburse taxpayers for civil servants time spent writing Liberal press releases? 

"3. Will the Liberals explain why they are now taking credit for assistance that the Government of Canada attributed to the provinces not even a month ago?"


But at least he didn't accuse him of blowing money on beer and popcorn


On the campaign trail in B.C. Wednesday, Prime Minister Paul Martin was so at a lost to explain why U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins decided to speak out against his anti-U.S. campaigning that he briefly forgot his name. 

When asked by a reporter what he thought about the timing of Wilkins' entry into the election debate earlier this week, the PM said the following: "Ambassador Williams is a man for whom I have the greatest respect."

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Martin's mini-gaffe was "another reason why you shouldn't take seriously what the prime minister says" on Canada-U.S. relations.

"A serious prime minister about the relations with the U.S. would obviously know the name of the ambassador of the U.S. in Canada."

But apparently a serious prime minister doesn't have to know the name of all the premiers. 

Last week while in Newfoundland, Harper said he was confident he had the support of Newfoundland's premier, even thought that premier said he wasn't going to get involved in the election campaign. 

"Well I was just at the Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative convention a couple months back," Harper said. "I thought that we got a pretty strong endorsement from Premier Campbell."

What Harper meant to say was Premier Williams, strangely the same name Martin momentarily thought was the name of the U.S. ambassador. 

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