Canada’s Harper Pledges Moratorium on Senate Appointments

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As one Canadian senator stands trial and others face investigations, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced he will simply stop appointing people to the unelected chamber.

Harper, speaking to reporters in Regina, Saskatchewan, said Canada’s provinces hold the authority to change or abolish the nation’s Senate. The move to stop all appointments will pressure them to act, Harper said.

“The number of vacancies will continue to rise, and other than some voices in the Senate and some people who want to be appointed to the Senate, no one’s going to complain,” Harper said at a joint press conference with Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

Harper, who faces elections Oct. 19, hasn’t made an appointment since 2013, when a spending scandal involving Conservative senators sideswiped his government. One senator, Mike Duffy, is now on trial, and Harper’s former chief of staff is due to testify on the matter next month.

Both Canada’s elected House of Commons and unelected Senate must approve bills before they become law. Currently, 22 of 105 Senate seats are vacant. Harper has made 59 appointments to the Senate, eighth-most in Canadian history.

Canada’s Supreme Court has ruled that significant changes to the Senate requires support of at least seven of the country’s 10 provinces. Abolition requires unanimity.

A federal election is scheduled for Oct. 19, and is shaping up to be a three-way race between Harper’s Conservatives, the New Democrats and the Liberals. The New Democrats favor abolition while the Liberals have proposed changing how senators are appointed.

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