This is the last week of this Parliamentary session and is most likely the last week of the 43rd Parliament. If the election comes as expected, this week is really all about clearing the decks and trying to wrap up any important outstanding legislation, so it doesn’t die when the writ drops. We’ve seen that with UNDRIP, which received Royal Assent yesterday and we’re seeing that play out with important items like the budget. But not all the items that any government may want to “wrap up” before an election are legislative, oh no, no, no. Today the Prime Minister took some action on one such thing that raised a few eyebrows:
Yes folks, three new Senators to join the ranks in the Red Chamber and three vacancies were filled, two from Ontario and one from New Brunswick. Yes, it’s noteworthy to see now former Canadian Labour Congress President (and one-time Federal NDP Vice-President) Hassan Yussuff get the call. You can quibble with the appointment if you like (I personally have no issue with his qualifications to be appointed) but given the whining and grousing from the CLC convention on the weekend that elected Yussuff’s successor, it’s an appointment that will surely widen splits in the House of Labour. Also, the timing of the appointment surely won’t help those comments about Yussuff from those corners, hobbling him going into such a prestigious position.
But for me that’s not the major problem with these appointments, or at least the ones in Ontario. I’m a believer that when it comes to appointing a new Senator one should consider who they are replacing. When it comes to the vacancies in Ontario, one of those came to be due to the “retirement” of Lynn Beyak, whose departure was far too late. As I noted at the time, this was a chance to “appoint someone from our region who is fully committed to reconciliation and serving all people who call our region home.” Given all the pain and cruel suffering that she brought upon Northwestern Ontario with her words, this was a chance to appoint a voice from the region who would speak to our better angels and work to help our region move forward. There were many qualified and amazing people from Northwestern Ontario who put their names forward for consideration, so there were many good names to choose from.
And this is where my problem comes in. Instead of taking this moment to do something more profound and make some good out of the legacy of this awful former senator’s term, what we got was a clear patronage appointment from Toronto and another from Cornwall. That’s no knock on Yussuff and Clement as individuals and their qualifications, but it speaks to a choice that the Prime Minister made here. In making that decision, the Prime Minister also ensured that Northwestern Ontario has precisely zero representation in Canada’s Senate. In fact, there are now zero senators sitting in the Senate from west of Sudbury all the way to the Manitoba border. As a result, not only didn’t we get a new voice to do better for our region, but we also got nothing at all while other strongly represent regions of Ontario got more voices and more voting power.
Yeah, that’s a failure on many levels beyond any personal feelings you might have able the individual bodies who are filling those seats. And because of the arcane way that our Senate is set up, who knows when Northwestern Ontario will have any representation in the Senate again. Given the political pressures to appoint from regions with greater political payoff, it’s likely to be a long time that Northwestern Ontario’s voice in the Senate will be silenced for political expedience. So yeah, add one more log on the fire, another missed opportunity and chance to do things differently from this government. Yet again we from Northwestern Ontario are left empty handed and disappointed. What a “real change”, right?