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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Harper' s Senate Appointment Throws a Bone to His Base.

Prime Minister Harper’s recent heuristics are starting to show that he is really getting the hang of this symbolic political gesture thing. The two flags over Vimy Ridge and the idea awarding of the Victoria Cross to the Unknown Soldier are two stunning examples. It appears the Veteran’s lobby against awarding the medal to the Unknown Soldier has worked because it seems to have disappeared from the PMO’s agenda.

But now we have a master stroke. Prime Minister Harper’s announcement today Senate appointing Bert Brown, one of Alberta’s “elected” and so-called “Senators-in-Waiting” is at the very heights of political uber-symbolism - especially in Harper's Alberta.

Bert Brown is a nice guy and no doubt will be a great Senator. He is seen as a little single minded about Senate reform and has run, and won, three times in the Alberta elected Senators charade. He is a good man and congratulations are in order for him personally.

What is interesting here is the Prime Minister’s politics around the appointment. Sure the PMO couched this appointment it in terms of Bill C-43 and how serious Harper is about “moving forward on Senate Reform.” Don’t be fooled. This Senate appointment is Harper throwing a bone to his base, the CPC membership in Alberta, who, by the way, is seriously alienated from him these days.

Anger amongst the Alberta base is now to the point that, while it is still below the surface, the grumbling is now about Harper’s “betrayal.” He is seen as blatantly courting Quebec for personal power and ignoring the fiscal conservative principles of the party and playing for fools the very people in Alberta who feel they “brung him to the dance.”

As for courting Quebec, I would not be surprised if Harper is already in quiet backroom talks with his new best friend in Quebec, Mario Dumont. The leader of the ADQ sees himself as the “Prime Minister in Waiting of the Autonomous State of Quebec.” Dumont is flirting with opening up Constitutional reform where Quebec will finally sign in on the Constitution Act of 1982 in exchange for cash, and who knows what else. Is Harper taking the bait?

By the way, Prime Minister Harper, all of this would have been done by now, including an elected, effective and equitable Senate, if the Reform Party hadn't scuttled the Charlottetown Accord back in the day.

If Harper is serious about dealing with appeasing his Alberta base he doesn’t need to play with Constitutional amendments, or to entice Quebec or any interminable dance for Senate Reform. As an Albertan, Prime Minister Harper I have a couple of suggestions for some real changes that you can do it right now, without Constitutional amendments, that will really resonate with all Albertans.

It is high time to reapportion the seats in the House of Commons. Alberta and BC together have 64 seats in the House of Commons and the same population as Quebec, who has 75 seats. Alberta has a population of 3.3 million, and growing, but only has 28 seats. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have a combined population of 2 million and have 28 seats between them. Mr. Prime Minister, are you starting to see what is unfair with this picture?

Why not reapportion or create more House of Commons seat for Alberta and BC right now…before the next election…no doubt they would all vote for you and besides, it is only fair! And while you are at it can you change the per capita grants too? The population figures Ottawa uses for such per capita distributions are from the 2001 census even though we have new numbers for 2006. Alberta has added almost a million people since 2001 I’ll bet. Not fair, not fair at all.

Come to think of it Stats Can seems to be out on it population estimates of Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie by as much as 50%. Perhaps Alberta should do its own census and send the real numbers to you so they can be used in calculating per capita distributions for your Alberta.

After all you are not only the Prime Minister of Canada and Quebec's best friend in Ottawa, you are an important Member of Parliament from Alberta too. You can claim ad infinitum that your Alberta base has been screwed by the old Liberal government for the past 13 years. It is still being screwed today - and you know it and you can fix it.

Fixing those alienating factors for your home province will overcome any feelings of betrayal by your base given your romancing of Quebec. And it will be much easier to accomplish and more meaningful back home than Senate reform. You can do it and you should do it. But get at it right now, especially given the time you have left to govern before the next election. Time's a'wastin'!

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