[Democracy Watch Logo] [Op-ed]

DemocracyWatch questions whether Prime Minister Harper's Senate appointments were pre-arranged with two senators, which would raise legal issues

Set out below is an op-ed by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published on May 19, 2011 on TheMarkNews.com. and in the May 20, 2011 edition of the Ottawa Citizen -- To see the Vancouver Province editorial endorsing the call for an investigation, click here)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s quick reappointment to the Senate of two senators who resigned to run for the Conservatives in the recent federal election raises serious questions about whether the senators were guaranteed in advance that they would be reappointed if they lost the election.

Larry Smith and Fabian Manning had resigned from the Senate to run in the May 2 election, but both lost. A third Senate appointee, Josée Verner, is a former Tory cabinet minister who lost her seat to the NDP.

Section 119 of the Criminal Code prohibits anyone from offering, and any MP or senator from accepting, “any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done … by them in their official capacity.”  And Section 124 prohibits resignations, or appointing people to offices for a reward or profit.

The RCMP and police, provincial Crown prosecutors, and the federal Director of Public Prosecutions have all been negligent in the past in investigating such situations and making it clear exactly why they believe these situations do not violate the relevant sections of the Criminal Code.

Past situations include:

  • Jim Hart's resignation as a Canadian Alliance MP, allegedly in return for cash, so that Stockwell Day could run for his seat in the House;
  • John Harvard’s resignation as a Liberal MP so that Glen Murray could run for a seat in Parliament. After his resignation, Harvard was selected by the Liberals as lieutenant-governor of Manitoba; and
  • Belinda Stronach’s switch from the Conservatives to the Liberals, receiving a cabinet post from then-prime minister Paul Martin.

Prime Minister Harper will claim that these senators are committed to Senate reform, but the Conservatives already have a majority.  No, this move is simply the height of patronage, and the height of hypocrisy, and it will taint his political career forever, even in the eyes of many of his core supporters.

Harper’s reappointments provide the perfect case for a full investigation and public explanation if the decision is made not to prosecute.

The police and Crown prosecutors need to make it clear what their enforcement policy is concerning sections 119 and 124, and resignations and appointments, and why they maintain that policy.

For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Voter Rights Campaign page