Will Harper stack the Senate if he thinks he'll lose the election?

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David Young
Will Harper stack the Senate if he thinks he'll lose the election?

At present, the standings in the Canadian Senate are:

Conxervatives - 51

(Independant) Liberals - 29

Independent - 5 (Including suspended Senators Brazeau, Duffy & Wallin)

Vacancies - 20

With the coming retirements of two more Conservatives between now and the October election date, this lends itself to an interesting question...!

If Harper thinks he'd going to lose the election, will he stack the Senate with Conservative appointees, like Pierre Trudeau did with Liberals in 1984 before he left office?

Does he risk even further alienating the public with an orgy of partisan appointments, or does he wait for the out-come of the election, and risk having a new government (Liberal, NDP, co-allition, etc.) appoint enough new Senators that will take away the Conservative majority?

Which would be the lesser of two evils?


Issues Pages: 
David Young

Conservatives - 51

Mr. Magoo

Which would be the lesser of two evils?

I thought Harper would prefer the greater of two evils. 


If there were only two evils, that would be half the battle.



Based on 2008 crisis - pretty straightforward - appoint 20 Conservative senators. 

Sean in Ottawa

This is an interesting question.

If Harper were to stack the Senate now it would look like an admission that he thinks he could be defeated. Further it would be so cynical to do this after holding off. This might be the last straw and cause him to lose the election.

If he does not make appointments the Senate would be out of Conservative hands within months.

So the question is this -- when does a PM lose the power to appoint?

It is important to remember the slew of Harper appointments made in January 2009. At the time the opposition parties had stated that the PM had lost confidence and Harper prorogued the House to prevent a vote. It was in this context that Harper made several appointments.

Harper could prepare a pile of appointments and announce them after the election and prior to the counting of the ballots. People would scream but it would not affect the election. The trouble with this is that it could be remembered for a very long time and if the result is a minority the political fallout could be serious and quick.

If the Governor General, himself a Harper Appointee, agrees to them, and they are made while Harper is still PM -- perhaps before he even has knowledge of an election result, it may be difficult to find a legal means to overturn them. These appointments could happen even after the results are known so long as they are made before a new government is sworn in. See below.


6. Does a government (Cabinet) have full and complete authority during an election, before a new government is sworn in?

If a government held a majority and went to an election at a time of its own choosing (subject to constitutional requirements that a general election be held at a minimum every five years), then it and its ministers continue to hold full and complete authority until a new government is sworn in.

However, such a government might wish to exercise caution during an electoral campaign and the period leading up to the swearing in of a new government. Unless prompted by urgency, controversial decisions, appointments to important positions, or policy decisions that might unreasonably bind future governments should be postponed until a new government is sworn in. If a government were to disregard these restrictions, there is no penalty in law that could be exercised against it. However, the possibility of political sanction in the form of a defeat at the polls would have to be taken into account.

(source: http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/lop/researchpublications/prb0812-e.htm#pm1)

montrealer58 montrealer58's picture

I think we shouldn't put anything past the Liberals and the Conservatives. They will cling to power at any cost, even including our democratic rights.


 Its already stacked by Harper, enough for generation, he doesn't need to add more, they'd be more a headarche for Harper then anyone else.

Sean in Ottawa

Brachina wrote:

 Its already stacked by Harper, enough for generation, he doesn't need to add more, they'd be more a headarche for Harper then anyone else.

No it is not. With the current standings (assuming Harper does not appoint any before the election) if Trudeau won he could have a liberal majority in the Senate by February


Interesting thought Sean. I hope he does because it would ensure the abolition of the upper house. I think this would drive people to get rid of it ASAP. People would recognize that even if elected it would have serious issues. Esp if the HarperCon Senate stopped some bills right away after the new government formed.

Sean in Ottawa

It is a hard decision for Harper -- he is probably hurt either way (stacking the Senate or handing it to Trudeau)