Justin Trudeau and an independent Senate

Having worked in the Senate for a number of years, I have huge respect for the institution. There are many senators who play by the rules and are there to make a positive contribution to the lives of Canadians, like this one, my favourite. But there are others – and not just Conservatives – who have, at best, behaved badly. And, at worst, well, I’ll let the RCMP decide.

Today’s bold move by Justin Trudeau – kicking all his senators out of caucus and forcing them to sit as independents – is indeed bold. But also a bit short-sighted. Yes, it reduces partisanship, which is a large contributing factor to the messes that we’ve been reading about for the past year, but it also reduces efficacy. For the Liberals, while they are third party in the House and a minority in the Senate, it doesn’t matter much. But when (when, not if) Trudeau is Prime Minister, he will have a problem. Every single piece of legislation must pass the Upper House, the unelected side. To do that with a chamber of independents will be hard, if not impossible. When push comes to shove, independents will flex their political muscle. They will pass nothing that they don’t approve of, Senate traditions not withstanding.

In the short-term, the Liberal leader now has 32 formerly Liberal Senators who didn’t see this coming, and who will be majorly pissed off.

But perhaps Trudeau doesn’t care. Perhaps that Senate audit is really that damaging, and this is all a pre-emptive strike.

Stay tuned.

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