BY RATTAN MALL
Justin Trudeau and Herb Dhaliwal.
FORMER Liberal federal minister Herb Dhaliwal told Asian Journal on Wednesday that federal Liberal Leader Justine Trudeau’s move to make the 32 current Liberal senators independent of the Liberal caucus highlights the fact that Trudeau is “showing real leadership, that he’s going to take on the big issues and the tough issues.”
He said: “He’s making some changes to the Senate that for eight years [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper hasn’t made at all.”
Dhaliwal added: “[Trudeau] is working very hard. He’s visiting across the country. He’s very well accepted by the public and he’s really addressing some of the issues.”
The Senate was recently rocked by the spending scandal involving three Conservative senators appointed by Harper, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, and Liberal senator Mac Harb, who has now retired.
Dhaliwal said: “It’s interesting that Stephen Harper is always talking about Senate change and has really done nothing and this would be a huge change.’
He said that Trudeau is trying to make the Senate more independent with independent senators as opposed to being tied to the caucus.
He added: “So really I think it’ll be a huge change to make the Senate much more independent and not be tied down to caucus rules and be forced to abide by what’s happening in the caucus. So it’s a huge move because usually senators are part of the Liberal caucus.”
However, Dhaliwal, noted that there was the other side of it too. He said: “These people have a lot of experience, so caucus can usually benefit from their views as well. But overall, I think it sets a new tone – it’s really the tone – that the Senate shall be more independent and senators can do their work as independents and really be a more independent body from the government. And that’s the message it sends out.”
TRUDEAU issued the following statement on Wednesday:
“Canadians expect their leaders to be open and honest with them, and they expect us to come forward with practical solutions that address problems directly. The Senate, through extreme patronage and partisanship, has become an institution that poorly serves the interests of Canadians.
“Paired with patronage, the pervasive issue of partisanship and control in the Senate is a deeply negative force. We need immediate action to address this. That is why, as of today, the national Liberal caucus will only include elected Members of Parliament, and not senators. This action will immediately mean that each of the 32 current Liberal senators will become independent of the Liberal caucus.
“This is about doing the right thing for Canadians and our institutions. I believe that Canadians are rightly seeking an effective institution that debates the difficult issues they are facing today. Equally, I believe that Canadians have no desire to re-open the Constitution. I am taking action today with these reforms, and I hope to earn the opportunity to go further as Prime Minister.
“That is why I am also announcing today that if I am elected Prime Minister, I will put in place an open, transparent and non-partisan appointment process for senators. This process will be developed working with experts and informed by other non-partisan appointment processes, such as that of the Supreme Court justices and Order of Canada recipients.
“Further, as the majority party in the Senate, immediate and comprehensive change is in Conservative hands. I’m calling on the Prime Minister to do the right thing and join us in ending patronage and partisanship in the Senate. All he needs is the judgment and will to get it done.
“Taken together, these steps represent the most significant and concrete actions to reform the Senate in its history. At our best, Liberals are relentless reformers. When public institutions fail to serve the public interest, we take bold steps to change them. These proposals will bring real, positive change for Canadians.”
DHALIWAL attacked the Conservative government for lacking a national vision and accused them of being tied down to the little things.
He said: “Where are the big visions anymore in the government? Is there are any national issue or international issue that they are talking about? Absolutely none! Internationally, people are saying where is Canada? Where is Canada on the environment? Where is Canada on human rights? Where is Canada on multilateral issues? We are nowhere to be seen. In fact, we are just cutting our foreign service budgets drastically. I think it’s a very inward thinking.”