New senators appointed

Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper has strengthened his party’s control of the unelected Senate, appointing five new senators Sept. 7.

The appointments increase the Conservative count to 68 in the 105-member Upper Chamber. The once-dominant Liberals are down to 40 members.

The latest appointments are from Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

An announcement from the prime minister’s office said all the new appointees have pledged to support government plans to impose time limits on Senate appointments and to encourage provinces to hold elections for the Senate with the winners to be appointed by the prime minister when a provincial vacancy opens.

Harper has been criticized for appointing many senators during the past six years in office despite an early Reform party pledge to end senatorial patronage appointments and to work for an elected Senate. His appointments have reversed decades of Liberal Senate domination.

He has argued that with opposition senators opposed to term limits or Senate elections, the only way the government can move on the Senate reform file is to stack the Upper House with Conservatives pledged to support reform.

During the three years remaining in Harper’s current term as prime minister, he will have the chance to further strengthen the Conservative Senate dominance.

By the time of the October 2015 election, Harper will be able to replace seven more Liberal senators who reach the mandatory retirement age of 75.

If he chooses to appoint Conservative partisans, it will raise the party’s ranks in the 105 seat chamber to 75.

Two of those Liberal senators due to retire will be from the Prairies: Saskatchewan senator Bob Peterson next month and Alberta senator Joyce Fairbairn in 2014.

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