Monday, November 22, 2010

Link Byfield "Resigns"

Link Byfield resigned his position as one of Alberta's senators-in-waiting today. I was hoping at his press conference he might have explained why his friend Senator Bert Brown participated in a shady vote down of a House of Commons Bill, passed by an elected majority. It's extremely ridiculous that Bert Brown can never be removed from his position, which he was appointed to for life by Stephen Harper. There is no bill Parliament can pass to force a term limit on Bert Brown or any other Senator.

Alberta held Senate elections in 2004 and three people were elected to serve 6 year terms as senators-in-waiting. Upon expiry this year, Premier Stelmach declined to hold another election and instead extended their terms. Regardless of what you think of this fake Senate reform, it's worth noting that Stelmach has zero regard for any kind of political reform.

The fact that Byfield is a Wildrose Alliance executive, and a candidate for them in the next election explains why Premier Stelmach was not willing to give him a tonne of free publicity with a senator-in-waiting election. The pattern by now is very clear. Ed Stelmach puts his party ahead of every single public issue, no matter what it is.

The senator-in-waiting act is a Provincial Statute that has no meaning outside of Alberta. It was invented by Ralph Klein as a PR stunt to shore up the right side (Reformers) of the PC Party. The Senate is a national body defined in our Constitution Act. All Senators are appointed by our Head of State, on the advice of the Prime Minister, who traditionally may ask for a recommendation from a Premier. This is High School curriculum knowledge, but seems on the decline among voting adults.

The Alberta Senate elections are relatively inexpensive, harmless, and give right leaning Albertans a warm fuzzy feeling about political reform. They get poor turnout and the candidates, so far, have only been drawn from the political right. Like everything else in Alberta, you can pick the conservative, or the other conservative. Watch out for the homophobia.

In all honesty, to me they are a meaningless gong show. And for the record, I'm interested in Senate reform as an ongoing issue.

The broader issue is not Link or Ed. This issue is the deteriorating knowledge about our institutions and how they work. I meet people who honestly believe a senator-in-waiting is legally entitled to the next open Senator position.

Stephen Harper and to some extent Klein and Stelmach have worked hard to de-educate Albertans about our national institutions, in particular about how Senate appointments work.

Where this issue goes in the future is hard to say. After the next Provincial election the Alberta Legislature could be divided up among 3 right leaning parties. I think it will continue to be used as a partisan wedge issue.

The next Liberal Prime Minister will not be bound to appoint any of Alberta's senators-in- waiting. Nor will he be bound by any of Stephen Harper's fake Senate reform bills. After all, Canada is founded on a faulty constitution, and other fault lines that seem intractable.

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