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)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Morning after Justin Trudeau’s ‘masterstroke’

It’s deflating, I know, but is Justin Trudeau the son of Pierre Trudeau or Joe Clark?

Just recently he was a change agent campaigning on the guileless sidewalks of Toronto. Then just yesterday — pow!

After one month of brilliant, closeted preparation, he’s a knife-yielding pol, the exorcist of the Canadian Senate. In a short, brutal speech, explicitly on behalf of the party of “relentless reformers,” he cleaned out the rot and returned our last-standing antidemocratic legislative body back to its 19th-century founding principles. 

Maybe he’s on a roll. Certainly, someone’s political career is beginning to end.

According to most pundits, he’s outsmarted a tired Stephen Harper. But only recently, so did Stephane Dion and Jack Layton. And going back to my callow youth in 1979, Peter Newman and most of the press gallery thought then that Joe Clark had “trapped” the Liberal caucus into fighting an election against an innovative Progressive Conservative tax increase, with their tired old leader, Pierre Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau may have safely launched his campaign to be prime minister. Most young strategists and young journalists have been brought up to believe that genuine constitutional reform is irresponsible, a waste of time. And Trudeau’s call for  "independent" senators leans on a universally popular word while promising as well that nothing complicated needs to be done.

As Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau would better intuit who would best represent us in the Canadian Senate. And we won’t be embarrassed about not bothering to vote in American-style senate elections. Enthusiasm in Canada has never been high for democratic vs. authoritarian government, especially in the east.

Popular democracy in America is only checked by the unelected Supreme Court. In Canada, the House of Commons, the one-and-only assembly of decision-makers actually chosen by the people, is checked by a Supreme Court, a Governor General, and an unelected Senate. This Canadian complacency is uneven and reluctantly admitted.

Quebecers loathe our inherited aristocratic institutions, and Westerners genuinely believe in representative democracy. They still see Easterners running Ottawa between elections and doing the "sober second" thinking. So, up until now, the Liberal Party has been coy about Senate reform for good reason.

To offer no help to Stephen Harper or Thomas Mulcair and now to enunciate an explicitly antidemocratic vision for the Senate is truly adventuresome. If the Supreme Court at least stays out of the way of Harper’s "consultative elections" proposal, Justin Trudeau could find himself as the standard bearer of reaction in the next election.

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