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Brad Wall's Senate wish: 'Reform it, abolish it, paint it pink'

Premier Brad Wall speaks at news conference on the flooding situation in Weyburn, Sask., on June 20, 2011.

ROY ANTAL/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Brad Wall looks to the east and sees Gary Doer appointed Ambassador to Washington. He looks to the west and he sees his good friend Gordon Campbell, former premier of British Columbia, appointed High Commissioner to London.

"It's killing me," he joked in a telephone interview Friday. "While I think Gordon Campbell would be an inspired choice by the PM, as was Doer, I am getting worried that the really old guys are getting all the juicy jobs"

Joking aside, Mr. Wall is complimentary of the Prime Minister for deciding to send Mr. Campbell to Britain. He said the former premier - notwithstanding any of the controversies in B.C. - will be a "tireless envoy" for Canada.

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Mr. Wall, however, is not so complimentary when it comes to the Prime Minister's recently introduced Senate reform package - although he supports it "in principle."

"At this point in the life of the province, given what we've been battling: Reform it, abolish it, paint it pink. I don't really care at this point," he said.

Saskatchewan has been dealing with devastating floods this spring. Mr. Wall cancelled his trip to the western premiers conference in Yellowknife this week because of severe flooding in the southern part of his province.

He noted, too, that Saskatchewan does have enabling legislation to elect senators, as the Prime Minister is proposing. The Harper government is also calling for nine-year term limits for senators.

But Mr. Wall has some concerns.

"We need to ask a few more questions on the reform front from a provincial perspective," he said. "If all the senators, elected or otherwise, are still whipped, if they are all part of their respective whipped parliamentary caucus ... are they free to speak on behalf of the province they come from or are they toeing a party line?"

He fears he knows the answer to that. "I think we could get a little bit more enthused even about the whole thing if it became clear that this was not about just an expanded parliamentary caucus for existing parties," he said.

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Mr. Wall argues, too, that the provinces have become "the defacto triple-E Senate." The Liberals, under both Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, devolved so much power and funding to the provinces that they are now strong enough to protect their regional interests. "The provinces are on the front line," the Premier explained. "This is where the action is."

He pointed to the potash decision as an example. Last year, he and his province successfully fought the attempted takeover of the Potash Corp. by an Australian company, convincing the federal government that it would not be of "net benefit" to Canada.

"We had our say in that," Mr. Wall said. "Is what we have today inferior? Would it even have been made at all better by a hybrid, elected, appointed, still whipped Senate? I don't think it would be."

Still, incremental steps are good and elected is better than appointed, he said - except when it comes to the appointments of Mr. Doer and Mr. Campbell to their respective diplomatic posts.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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