Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Reform movement officially dead; Harper killed it

The Reform party was formed over two decades ago, and its hard to believe that it is now eight years since it formally ceased being part of our political life. Hard to believe because in many ways it hadn'treally gone away — its personnel, policies and culture largely rolled directly into the Alliance and then, with some dilution, into the Conservative party.

An important part of the Reform movement was its call for changes to Canada's governance. Four planks were central to their program:
  • recall
  • referenda
  • fixed election dates
  • an elected and equal senate
Recall was the first to be dropped and hasn't be mentioned in years. Referenda were abandoned not much later — an inevitable decision after Rick Mercer turned them into a joke with his famous 'Doris' proposal.

Having fixed election-dates, by contrasts, was achieved and passed into law in 2006 by the new Harper government. The problem? The law was a legal sham, as Harper himself showed this fall. A chance at a majority beckoned, and he called an election despite the law.

And now the senate. An elected senate was always a long-shot, since to do it properly would require a constitutional amendment, which in Canada is practically impossible. Harper, however, thought he saw a short-cut. Appoint those whom the provinces elected. The problem? Apart from Alberta, none of the provinces were interested in running such elections, and the vacancies began to pile up. Once Harper's near-death experience revealed how tenuous was Harper's grip on power, he moved to appoint 18 new senators.

In appointing these senators, of course, Harper abandoned his promise to appoint only elected senators. That's politics, and many have and will point out his inconsistency.

The important point, however, is surely that these last vestiges of the Reform agenda were undone by Harper, an old Reformer, and in doing so he surely has killed it.