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Larry Smith, Josee Verner and Fabian Manning, who were defeated as Conservative candidates in the 2011 election but rewarded with Senate seats, are shown in a photo combination. (The Canadian Press)
Larry Smith, Josee Verner and Fabian Manning, who were defeated as Conservative candidates in the 2011 election but rewarded with Senate seats, are shown in a photo combination. (The Canadian Press)

Red Chamber

PM draws heavy fire for naming defeated Tories to Senate Add to ...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed three defeated Conservative candidates to the Senate, two of whom gave up their seats in the Red Chamber at the start of the election so they could run for office.

Former candidates Larry Smith, Fabian Manning and former cabinet minister Josée Verner will be joining a caucus that already includes six other senators who were rejected by voters – four as candidates for the Conservatives, one as a Reform Party member, and one as a representative of the Canadian Alliance.

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In naming the three newest senators on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said in a statement: “Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate.”

But the announcement of the three new additions, which came immediately after the only opportunity reporters were given to question Mr. Harper had ended, was widely denounced.

“Canadians should be outraged that three individuals who were just defeated by the Canadian people in an election have now been appointed to the Senate,” Opposition Leader Jack Layton told a news conference.

“This is completely undemocratic,” said Mr. Layton. “It’s a slap in the face of the Canadian voters who just trooped out to the polls to send their own message very strongly in the last election.”

Ms. Verner, the former minister of intergovernmental affairs, lost to New Democrat Alexandrine Latendresse by nearly 1,300 votes in the Quebec riding of Louis-Saint-Laurent.

Mr. Manning won the Newfoundland seat of Avalon for the Conservatives in 2006 but was defeated in 2008. Mr. Harper appointed him to the Senate the following year. Mr. Manning then quit in late March to make another bid for the House of Commons but lost to Liberal incumbent Scott Andrews.

Mr. Smith, a past commissioner of the Canadian Football League, was first appointed to the Senate late last year – a position that he said at the time would require him to take “a dramatic, catastrophic pay cut.”

He quit his Senate seat to run for the job of MP in the riding of Lac-Saint-Louis after being repeatedly accused of campaigning from his Senate office.

During the election, he told The Canadian Press: “The condition for accepting the position in the Senate was I had to send my letter of resignation when I started campaigning. … So I have no place there and I have no expectation of returning there.”

In the end, Mr. Smith lost to Liberal incumbent Francis Scarpaleggia and placed third behind Alain Ackad of the NDP.

When he came to office in 2006, Mr. Harper said: “I don’t plan to appoint senators; that’s not my intention.” Instead, he said, he would reform the Senate to make it an elected and accountable body. Marjory LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, recently said the Senate would be on the government’s agenda in the not-too-distant future.

But Gerry Nicholls, a former senior officer in the National Citizens Coalition and a conservative pundit, said the decision to appoint senators who have lost in an election will not sit well with former members of the Reform Party.

“Voters have had a chance to send these people to Parliament and they rejected them,” said Mr. Nicholls. “I think it’s also a real slap in the face to Reform tradition and to those Reformers out there who wanted a reformed Senate, an elected Senate, an accountable government, who wanted more democracy in Ottawa.”

The Liberals when they were in power also made political appointments to the Senate. But Carolyn Bennett, a Liberal MP who was her party’s critic for democratic reform, called the immediate reappointment of failed electoral candidates “outrageous.”

“It makes a mockery of our whole parliamentary democracy that you could use the Senate as just a bullpen for your candidates,” said Ms. Bennett. “And if they strike out, they get to go back in the bullpen, I guess, for the next election.”

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