Appointment Process

Hon. Jim Munson: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday’s note from the throne offered a new glimpse on the Conservative government. Yesterday, we heard words we have never heard before: working together, solidarity, reaching out, listening, unity — and my favourite — non-partisan cooperation.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Munson: Honourable senators, it sounded more like a New Year’s resolution than a Speech from the Throne. However, we do not have to look too far to see that words and reality with this Conservative government do not always coincide. Remember the promise of no Senate appointments? Today, we have 18 new colleagues. Remember fixed election dates? The Prime Minister went ahead and called an election anyway. Remember parliamentary involvement in government appointments? Remember the call for transparency? Honourable senators, without a parliamentary hearing process we have a new Supreme Court judge.

Would the leader tell us: Why should we believe the lovely words in the note from the throne when experience tells us to expect the opposite?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government and Minister of State (Seniors)):Honourable senators, I never cease to be amazed by the chutzpah of the honourable senator. Senator Munson is the former director of communications to the Prime Minister who said he would axe the tax — no GST. Senator Munson is the former director of communications to the Prime Minister who said he would scrap NAFTA.

In answer to the honourable senator’s question regarding the Throne Speech, I think everyone will acknowledge that the worldwide economic situation has changed drastically, and continues to do so almost on a weekly basis.

The Canadian public wants parliamentarians to deal with the economic situation and to put aside their partisan beliefs. We have been listening to the public.

The honourable senator specifically mentioned the Supreme Court. Senator Munson knows that one Supreme Court judge went through the parliamentary process. The events of the fall hampered the parliamentary procedure for the new Supreme Court judge. As honourable senators know, the Chief Justice made a specific request to the Prime Minister to appoint this highly qualified person as the court could not go on much longer with one judge less than required.

Before agreeing to the Chief Justice’s request, the Prime Minister consulted with the Leader of the Opposition and Mr. Ignatieff gave his blessing that, in this particular case, we should proceed. It was also made very clear that appointment of future judges will go back to the parliamentary process.

Senator Segal: That is the spirit of cooperation.

Senator Munson: With respect to the comment about chutzpah, these answers are beginning to sound like David Letterman’s “Great Moments in Presidential History.”

I will leave it at that because I want my colleagues who work as a team here to ask other questions.