Opinion Column

Justin Trudeau Senate trick a sleight of hand

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Justin Trudeau.

Justin Trudeau.

"I'm not a former Liberal. I'm a Liberal. And I'm a Liberal senator. I think not a lot will change." — Senator James Cowan, “ex-Liberal” Senate leader, Jan. 29

Justin Trudeau's unilateral "ejection" of 32 Liberal senators last week is like a magician making a readily visible coin suddenly disappear before an astonished audience.

Yet, moments later, the coin is miraculously back - and right in the palm of the Liberal Leader’s hand.

Liberal senators will be no different.

While many observers have been impressed with the tactic's "boldness," ex-Liberal senator Jim Munson went hyperbolic to claim Trudeau had "set us free" from their supposed $135,000 a year serfdom. The reality, however, is far less noble.

The “free” Liberals are already demonstrating their "independence" by continuing to have Cowan as their Senate Leader and Munson as opposition whip.

Trudeau claims "there are no more Liberal senators," despite most of the 32 he ejected continuing to call themselves and work together as Liberals.

He proclaimed the former Liberal senators are "independent" from the party that appointed them and challenged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do the same. "Join us in making senators independent of political parties and end partisanship in the Senate," Trudeau said.

But in a highly ironic twist of historical fate, it was in fact Conservative senators who demonstrated in 2013 what true independence means. It was then when 16 of them voted to radically amend Bill C-377, a Conservative private members bill passed by Tory Members of Parliament but sent back "gutted," in the words of its sponsor.

C-377 was vigorously opposed by Canadian labour, including - full disclosure - unions that are among my clients, but it was then-Conservative Senator Hugh Segal who led a successful insurrection against the legislation.

The point isn't C-377's content but that 16 Conservative senators stood up in public to thwart Harper and his cabinet and show their displeasure.

It was left last week to B.C. Senator and recent ex-Liberal Larry Campbell, Vancouver's former coroner, to start the post-mortem on Trudeau's tactic.

“It’s a brave move on the part of Justin. I don’t know that it’s a smart move,” he said.

When it comes to tricks, sometimes the magic just wears off.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman  


How would you describe the senators made "independent" by leader Justin Trudeau?

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions