The Senate Nuclear Option

Harper's Aussie meanderings are spooking some back home:
"Reform means reform. We would like the senators are elected and have fixed terms. We believe we are on track. But the comments of the Prime Minister in his speech in Australia always reflect his thoughts, "said a government source said yesterday in La Presse.

In that speech, Mr. Harper said: "Australia's Senate shows how a reformed upper house can function in our parliamentary system. And Canadians understand that our Senate, as it is today, must change or, as the old upper houses of our provinces, vanish. "(link)

To be fair Harper has not said he would consider abolishing the senate. Neither did Jason Kenney when he recently insinuated that the government would consider more "dramatic" options should the senate reform bill fail in the Senate.

One very real option is to pull a Mulroney: appoint more Senators. Tip the balance of power - but make sure that these guys Harper appoints stick by their word this time. That gives Harper the majority in the Senate he needs to reform it.

Yet Harper used the word "vanish" without much explanation. He would no doubt know the implications back home. This leads me to conclude that Harper intended to cause a splash.

He knows there is no appetite for the type of constitutional reform abolishing the senate would require. Yet every opposition party in parliament supports the notion of "abolishing" the senate. Including some provincial governments.

What I think this really is, is a concerted strategy by Harper to call the opposition's bluff. If they really believe in Senate abolition - we'll give it to them.

This puts the opposition in an awkward position. I don't believe for a moment that the Progressive left in this country actually believed in abolishing the senate so much as opposing the government's senate reform plans. The Canadian Senate has been a boon to the Canadian Left for decades acting as a nice socialist-second-thought to our Elected Accountable House of Commons.

With the Tories calling their bluff, and Senator's seeing that the PM is willing to call it quits with trying to fix the senate, the only option left for those opposed to having an elected accountable senate is to accept reform or face oblivion.