Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, January 7, 2013

Canadian Senators don’t ‘represent’ me, sorry

Institutional reform is hard, especially in cautious places like Canada. It shouldn’t, also, be obstructed by misleading and self-serving jargon.

The Canadian Senate and hundreds of Crown Corporations have learned to survive the winds of change by embracing the terms of their opponents.

The Crown, it seems, doesn’t run Crown Corporations anymore.

Instead, "public shareholders" own "commercial corporations," state-owned enterprises that, in most cases, were conceived and launched in the public sphere. This terminology provides the appearance of private-sector virtues. A private corporate culture making money for all the people, you say? What’s the problem?

The Senate’s vulnerability is more severe. It wasn’t set up to provide services that were unavailable in the market place. Rather, it was created explicitly to frustrate popular democracy. It exists in opposition to the way the Americans decided to organize on this continent. That’s why prime ministers since 1867not provinces or citizens in the provinceshave been free to appoint to the Senate whomever they want.

However, despite his high tolerance for the word "royal," Stephen Harper is philosophically an American democrat. His desire to appoint only Senators who’ve won province-wide elections has been realized only in Alberta and remains a distant threat almost everywhere else. Nevertheless, senators who like the status quo have found a way to confuse the issue and help delay popular change.

In an opinion piece on Canadian energy policy in the National Post this morning, Daniel Lang was reported to “represent Yukon” in the Senate.

The National Post poorly serves its own editorial sympathies and its readers by adopting this conceit.

Lang’s heart may be in the North. However, his Senate appointment reflects the good judgment or otherwise of the prime minister and no one else. So far, only the people of Alberta have had a chance to send a "representative" of theirs to the prime minister for appointment to the Senate.

Other senators have no honest right to claim to "represent" other constituencies or provinces in the country, whatever their personal sentiments and attachments. They answer to their own consciences and a handshake with a prime minister.


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