Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Senator Changes Parties

Oh that Canada had more politicians like Senator Anne Cools! Alas, we do not.

She became a Senator - - the first black Senator, as a matter of fact, on the recommendation of then Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1984.

One wonders if the late Prime Minister had a clue what sort of Senator she would become?

Principled, out-spoken, courageous, tireless in work and equally tireless in her campaign against some of the more dangerous currents of the day, she continues to outrage and delight by turns.

This week she threw the Liberal party, currently treading water in an attempt to avoid sinking between the electoral waves, a large rock when she resigned as a Liberal and decided to endorse the Conservative party and its leadership hopeful, Stephen Harper.

Now had Senator Cools not been the primary opponent of the recently passed Bill C-250 that added “sexual orientation” to the “hate speech” sections of the Criminal Code; had she not upset so many feminists by her work on behalf of fathers who have been shafted during divorce proceedings; had she been shifting from the Conservative party to the Liberals and not the other way around; then her shift of parties at this time in an election race would have been all over the media and she would have been fêted as the darling of the chattering classes.

As it is, dropping the Liberal party because she can no longer stomach their politics, and asserting that the governing party has wasted billions of dollars in the sponsorship scandal and the gun-registry would seem to be the kind of thing to give scant attention to today: at least judging by the media’s response to it.

Whether the current strength of the Conservatives in the polls, a strengthening that occurred after Senator Cools left the Liberals, ends up ushering in a new era in Canadian politics or not, it is clear that one of the most hard-working and genuinely brilliant of Canadian Senators has made a strong and clear statement and bolsters the Conservative voice in the Upper House.

Long after the issues of the day have settled (one way or other) her speeches in support or against a particular measure are usually marked by extensive research (invariably her own) and a deep understanding of Canadian Parliamentary history and tradition.

She has often lamented the passing of those who really care about the proper processes of the House and Senate.

Such statements of genuine principle are rare in Canadian politics and no matter what party we think ought to triumph in the weeks ahead, we would be wise to note the implications of Senator Cools’ stance. She is one of a handful of politicians in Ottawa that command respect and will, I am sure, get that respect from history even if she does not get as much as she deserves from our own times.

Iain T. Benson©