There are many things to discuss about the Senate, that may take many posts to get though. I will start with an interesting fact, and begin by going over some numbers.
The "median" Prime Minister has appointed between 37 and 39 Senators, depending on weather or not you count the original 73 appointments as "a Prime minister" or not. Among the bottom half, the median has appointed at least a dozen senators.
For the purposes of the following statistics, I will be ignoring the 6 Prime Ministers who appointed under 12 Senators.
Of the 16 Prime Ministers we are looking at...
Only 3 appointed nothing but Senators from their own party. Mackenzie and Bowell, both from the 1800s, and Harper. It might be surprising for some to learn this, but, every Prime Minister (who we are looking at, IE excluding the 6 who served very short terms) during the 1900s appointed at least 1 Senator from outside the governing party.
Don't get too excited. 10 of the 16 did not appoint any Senators who were from the opposition. The other 7 appointed Senators who sat as Independents, either as true non-partisans, Independents who backed the government party to a lukewarm extent, or Independents who opposed the government.
Only 6 appointed Senators from the opposition. Who were those 6 and why?
Mulroney appointed 1 opposition Senator, a Reform Party member who won an election.
St. Laurent appointed 1 PC Senator after his advisors told him to, as, the PC Party had so few Senators, they were at real danger of losing party status in the Senate.
Borden appointed 3 Liberals, all in 1918. From what I can gather, all Unionists.
Macdonald appointed 9 Liberals, and, oversaw the Royal Proclamation that founded the Senate, which appointed 27 Liberals. At the time, however, it was not yet precedent to appoint only your own to the Senate.
And so, of the 16, 14 clearly had "partisan motives" for their Senate appointments. What of the other 2?
The most recent of them is Paul Martin. He appointed 2 Conservatives, Andree Champagne and Hugh Segal. While both moderates, they both supported Harper in a way. Martin had also appointed "Progressive Conservative" senators, but neither Champagne nor Segal quit the official party to be PC Senators. Part of the problem with judging Paul Martin is he only spent a few years in office, and we can not know if he would have simply appointed more and more Liberals had he spent longer in office.
Last is the Prime Minister who has done the most for Senate Reform since confederation. It was on his watch that Senators received their mandatory retirement age.
Pierre Trudeau appointed 81 Senators. Of those 8 were from opposition parties, a full 10%. 7 of them were Tories, he appointed them throughout his entire term of office, starting in 1972, and ending in 1982, with the latter Senator serving right up to the year 2000. Trudeau also appointed a Social Credit Senator, Ernst Manning.
So why does any of this matter?
Simple. Justin Trudeau has already done more to reform the Senate than Harper ever did, when he released his Senate caucus.
Justin Trudeau has indicated, by various statements, that he wants the Senate to be much more politically independent and much less partisan.
At this time, there is a vacant seat in PEI in the Senate. Given that Mike Duffy is the only non-Liberal in the Senate from PEI, Justin might show he means what he says by appointing a Conservative to this job.
There are many options. Pat Binns was always a moderate, yet, had backed the idea of a united right from the get go. Binns, should he want the job, would not only be a moderate, yet also a loyal big C Conservative Senator. The problem with Binns is he'd retire a year before the next election, unless, Justin plans an early election using our new electoral system.
Many other provincial politicians from the PEI PC Party could fit the bill as well. I won't list them all, but the fact remains that this is 'the sort of thing he would do' and as such, I personally would not be surprised to see it happen.
Consider as well there as a vacant seat in BC, a province full of both big G and small g greens. Ontario has 7 vacancies, That's enough space for 3 Liberals, 2 true Independents, and, of course, myself! Though, I admit, the latter is a bit unlikely.
With 22 vacancies, and a commitment to changing the Senate, it is quite possible we could see appointments sooner rather than later, and if so, I would keep an eye open to those appointments not from the Liberal Party. It is quite possible that no Conservative would be appointed, and, also possible no Liberal will be either. Appointing 22 people who have never held a public political affiliation would certainly be a very bold statement indeed.
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