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Dining with the enemy

Wed, 05/31/2017 - 11:57 -- Mike Czechowicz

Politics can make cynics of us all.  When you witness, what is transpiring with our neighbours to the south it seems as if “the greatest country in the world” has somehow, overnight, become a third world banana republic and what the consequences for the rest of the world will be are anyone’s guess.

Canadian politics, by comparisons, seems quite benign; that is not to say, we don’t have our share of shenanigans, and scandals, corruption, and the seemingly endless ways for elected officials to squander our hard-earned money.  But compared to our neighbours, and actual third world banana republics, the antics of our political class is rather bush league and our reputation around the world continues solidly in the camp of sensible nations.

That is why the recent ousting of senator Stephen Greene, from the Conservative Senate caucus was such an egregious example of politics at its most cynical.  As much as the Canadian Senate has become a catch phrase for entitlement and scandal the intent of this unelected body is to be a place of “sober second thought” to government legislation.   Since its inception, the Senate has acted just like the House of Commons with a government and opposition structure where senators were chosen at the whim of sitting Prime Ministers and the chamber devolved into a partisan, bickering confab.

 Justin Trudeau, to bring some much-needed structure, short of dismantling it or making it an elected body, cut his party’s ties to the liberal senators, making them, defacto, independent, while the Conservative senators, remain, as such, usually voting as a block.  Trudeau’s idea, although novel, could be viewed as a cynical attempt at better optics, since the Liberal senators could very well turn out to be independent in name only (if it walks like a duck!)

Yet Senator Greene’s story is a shining example of how the Senate and politics in general should work. Back in November Greene sponsored an innocuous bill, that implemented a tax treaty between Canada, Israel, and Taiwan, like treaties it has with ninety other countries, meant to protect workers from being double taxed.  It was a rubber stamp issue, yet Greene received grief from his Conservative colleagues for sponsoring this “liberal” bill even though it was passed unanimously in the end.

The upshot was that Greene accepted an invitation to a dinner, hosted by the Prime Minister, to thank some twenty senators who had sponsored various bills.  It would seem rather harmless and a bit insulting not to accept and yet Greene was hauled in front of his caucus and given an ultimatum that if he attended the dinner he would have to leave caucus, despite being a Conservative for the past 45 years. As Greene stated, “It seems that my dinner with the Liberal Prime Minister was more than the Conservative caucus could stomach,” and it would seem his ouster, more than many Canadians could, judging by the outpouring of support for him.  Greene now sits with the majority of independent senators.

These displays of pettiness in politics can truly be debilitating to average voters: that, in our centrist ways of thinking we mostly want our elected officials to get along and do what’s best for the country.  What happened to Senator Greene was truly something out of a Banana Republic.


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