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Drawn Off Topic: Mary Walsh on the Senate (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)
Drawn Off Topic: Mary Walsh on the Senate (Anthony Jenkins/The Globe and Mail)

Drawn Off Topic

Comedian Mary Walsh on Senate reform Add to ...

Comedian Mary Walsh appeared in CODCO and This Hour Has 22 Minutes on CBC. She wrote and is performing Dancing With Rage at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto from March 5 to 24 and May 28 to June 2 at the Neptune Studio Theatre in Halifax.

Is any question about the Canadian Senate boring?

It seems to be not that boring right now. People, for the first time, seem to be really paying attention to the Senate and wondering why we are paying millions to support something that just seems to be a place to put bagmen and Conservative cronies and failed politicians, even though the Prime Minister came into power promising to reform the Senate. But instead of reforming the Senate, he has actually just stuffed the Senate.

It’s kind of based on the British House of Lords, where the elite make sure evil legislation passed by the democratically elected rabble in the House of Commons doesn’t get through. I suppose we saw that happen when the House had passed that legislation [Bill C-393] to send generic AIDS drugs to Africa and then the Senate killed that. They were taking care of Big Pharma and I suppose they are still carrying out that initial job to stop the democratically elected rabble.

Did we ever need that?

Well, I think we don’t. Reforming the Senate was a great idea, but I think maybe we should just get rid of the Senate. That would be an even better idea.

That is virtually impossible short of a constitutional amendment.

A constitutional change. Yes. That might take, oh, I dunno, 10,000 years …

If not abolition of the Senate, what should be Plan B?

Some sort of reform really needs to be brought in. I guess elected, maybe. The elite, maybe we could stop that. Maybe the premiers of the provinces and territories could become the Senate, our Red House.

But they already have jobs.

Right, but many senators already have a job too! I mean they only have to sit 70 days. If the business of the Senate is to protect the provinces and territories, then surely the people who would protect the provinces and the territories [best] are the people who have already been elected to do that.

Becoming senators would be a lucrative sideline for the premiers.

The earning part of it is not the part that is most upsetting. It is more the useless part of it. That is most upsetting.

The “Triple-E” Senate that Stephen Harper once bandied about – do you know what the three Es stand for?

I dunno what the three Es are, but I know that Quebec and Ontario are never going to agree to it because it is equal representation for all the provinces and territories.

The Es are “equal,” “elected” and “effective.”

Well, “equal,” we’re never going to get past “equal” anyway, because why would [provinces] with massive populations agree to have equal representation with provinces that have quite small populations?

You are a well-known and esteemed Canadian. Suppose, tomorrow, you get a call from the Prime Minister and he says, “Mary, we’d like you in the Senate.” How would you respond?

That is never going to happen, and I can’t imagine Mr. Harper calling me up for any reason, let alone for a position in the well-paid, well-padded Senate. No, I’m not interested in being in the Senate. It doesn’t appeal to me at all. I don’t have those kinds of longings. I want to continue working as a satirist. I quite like that. I feel the two things are mutually exclusive.

Couldn’t the Senate use a satirist or two?

There doesn’t seem to be any … unless we turn the entire Senate into satirists. The satirizing Senate. I’d gladly sit on that Senate.

Let’s assume you haven’t, as yet, done enough to be asked to join the Senate. What further could you do to merit inclusion?

I’d have to sell out everything that I believe in. But you can never say never, can you? It seems to me, for me to say, “Yes, Mr. Harper, Herr Harper, I’d gladly accept an appointment to the Senate,” I would have to become a Conservative – and not a Progressive Conservative – and I would have to become a person that is the very opposite of who I have always believed I am. And, pray God, that day won’t come.

Presto! You are the prime minister. Nominate three senators.

First of all, I would leave in Roméo Dallaire. I would leave in Michael Kirby, who has done extrordinary work to raise the profile of the scandal of mental health care in this country. Who else? … I’d put in someone who has worked tirelessly for the poor and the homeless.

How about someone who has worked tirelessly against seriousness in Canada? Is there any comic you think would make a fine senator?

If we had a Senate of Satire? Oh, I’d appoint Greg Thomey. I’d appoint Andy Jones. I’d appoint Cathy Jones. I’d appoint Andrea Martin. I’d appoint Catherine O’Hara …

Oh, and Colin Mochrie. The Senate would need someone whose very name is mockery.

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