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Career broadcaster Mike Duffy, his former colleague Pamela Wallin and Olympic athletic icon Nancy Greene are headed to the Senate as Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed Monday that he is filling all 18 current vacancies, triggering a debate over patronage as the fate of his government hangs in the balance.

Mr. Duffy currently hosts a daily political news show on CTV called Mike Duffy Live. Ms. Wallin was also a prominent figure at CTV and CBC before being named consul-general to New York by the former Liberal government.

Ms. Greene helped break the European stranglehold on downhill skiing by winning a gold medal at the 1968 Winter Olympics. She was named Canada's female athlete of the 20th century in a vote by Canadian Press members and will take a seat in Parliament just before her province hosts the Olympics.

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Both Mr. Duffy and Ms. Wallin have agreed to join the Conservative caucus and have pledged to oppose the proposed coalition of opposition parties threatening to unseat the government next month.

The basic annual salary for an appointee is $130,400 until they retire or reach age 75, followed by a very comfortable pension - and both are indexed to inflation.

Mr. Harper has always believed senators should be elected and he refrained from filling most vacancies while trying to make the upper chamber more democratic. Those efforts ran into roadblocks erected in Parliament and by Ontario and Quebec.

Liberal-affiliated senators had occupied 58 of the seats, while 20 were held by Conservatives.

Mr. Harper's timing, just before Christmas when most Canadians are preoccupied with holiday cheer rather than politics, suggests the government isn't anxious to showcase the appointments.

Opposition parties have questioned whether Mr. Harper has the political legitimacy for a patronage spree, having averted the almost-certain defeat of his minority government in the Commons only by suspending Parliament until the new year.

And the Prime Minister himself has admitted he takes no joy in having to stack the Senate, a move seen by some as tantamount to waving a white flag of surrender on his dream of reforming the chamber.

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"I've waited for three years," he noted in a recent TV interview.

"We've invited the provinces to hold elections. We've put an electoral bill before the House of Commons. But for the most part, neither in Parliament nor in the provinces has there been any willingness to move forward on reform."

Until now Mr. Harper had appointed only two senators - Alberta's Bert Brown, victor of a Senate election in his province, and Michael Fortier, who got the plum so that Mr. Harper could have a minister from Montreal in his first-term cabinet.

The other appointments announced Monday are: -Former Conservative MP Fabian Manning will represent Newfoundland - Fred Dickson, a lawyer - Stephen Green, a former chief of staff to Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald - Michael MacDonald, a Nova Scotia businessman with ties to the Conservative party - Percy Mockler, a former Conservative MLA in New Brunswick - John Wallace, a former Conservative party candidate and lawyer who has represented Irving Oil - Patrick Brazeau, the national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, a group representing off-reserve aboriginals that has been largely supportive of the Harper government - Suzanne Fortin-Duplesis, the first woman elected to the Municipal Council of Sainte-Foy and a former MP for Louis-Hebert from 1984 to 1993 - Leo Housakos, the co-founder of the Montreal Hellenic Chamber of Commerce - Michel Rivard, a former Parti Quebecois MNA for Limoilou, Que. who joined the Canadian Alliance under Stockwell Day - Nicole Eaton, director and vice-chair of the National Ballet of Canada - Irving Gersetein, an Ontario business man and chair of the Conservative Party's fundraising organization, the Conservative Fund of Canada.

- Yonah Martin, a former Conservative candidate in New Westminster-Coquitlam - Richard Neufeld, B.C.'s minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Services - Hector Daniel Lang, a former Yukon MLA With a report from Canadian Press

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