|A Red Chamber without any reds|
I’ve pretty much had all night to think about this, but the fact is that from the outset I liked the idea. I have been a constant supporter of reform for the Senate in some capacity, because the status quo simply isn’t working. Its too partisan, its too illegitimate in the eyes of Canadians, and its just too damn easy to abuse, as our current Prime Minister has demonstrated.
While elections and selection committees and all that are great ideas, in the back of my mind I always wondered why the hell there even was partisan affiliation in the chamber of supposed “sober second thought.” I mean, with an appellation like that you would expect the Senate to be full of independent men and women without a care for the partisan squabbles of the House – doctors, generals, intellectuals, even long-serving politicians who aren’t interested in the House any more and wish to contribute another way. People that are not tied to the whims of party leaders and machinations of backroom operatives. How could you have sober second thought otherwise?
That is generally why I found the past Liberal ideas on reform – the idea of independent selection committees which can “call up” people and ask them to serve in this new capacity, or something like that – really good, but only if we could get rid of the partisan affiliation as well. Obviously, I was not alone in this thought.
Let us call Trudeau’s move for what it is – ballsy. To get rid of your entire Senate caucus is a risky gamble for us. It means we’ve become a true “third party” in Parliament, where we no longer serve as the Official Opposition in either house., We’ve lost influence, research capacity, and simply put, we've lost a boatload of money. It also means that if the NDP or Conservatives ever need to use our Senate caucus for their own machinations, they don’t really have to talk to the Liberals, they’ll just talk to the independent members of the Senate. In a way, one of our arms was just cut off and can now be used by the other parties to extend their reach.
The other major concern is whether or not the Conservatives would follow through. I don’t think Harper would, and I’m not convinced you’d see some mass exodus of Conservative senators seeking to join with the independents, or even a trickle. Hell, it seems like many of the former Liberal senators can barely stand the idea of being independents.
There is no real way to walk this back, either. If this becomes an awful decision, we could probably ask still-loyal-Liberal senators to rejoin the caucus, but there’s no guarantee they would, and we’d be mocked off the national stage. There are just so many risks involved, and while I know Justin, his advisors, and the others involved in this decision did plan it out, they have to know it could crumble quickly.
Its also the gamble of a political lifetime. Here's to it paying off.