Conservatives dismissed the proposal as a stunt that would do nothing to make the Senate more accountable to voters. New Democrats accused Mr. Trudeau of trying to distance himself from the fallout of a looming audit into senators' expenses. And senators, who began the day as Grits and ended it as outcasts, responded with a roller-coaster mix of confusion, disappointment and unflinching support.
First, the politics. It would be impossible for either the Harper Cons or the Mulcair NDP to do anything other than criticize Trudeau's proposal. In the charged climate of today's politics, that's just how the game is played. You attack your opponents and everything they do and then try to make yourself look as different as possible.
What else can you do, right? If you don't play the game, the game plays you.
Mulcair's position is the easier one - he (and a faction of his Party) have a long tradition of looking for conspiracies. It's Team Harper that has the harder confabulatory knot to tie; they're supposed to be the Party in favour of less control and more independence in society, although their internal practices with the Senate, their Caucus, the bureaucracy, even foreign players has been anything but.
However there's more to this decision than just the politics of positioning. By "cutting loose" his Senate Caucus, Trudeau has shrunk the size of the team that is directly accountable to him. Unlike Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy, Trudeau and his team no longer have the ability to call Senators onto the carpet and give them hell for going off-message or acting inappropriately. They can no longer leverage those Senators for fundraising, TV spots or as a second-tier of legislative manipulation.
It's possible Team Trudeau has made a calculated move to distance themselves from future revelations on the spending scandals, but honestly, who cares about that? Politics is about winning big and consolidating control. The theory is that with absolute power comes the ability to spin away any potential challenges.
This is what Harper's been building towards since he became Leader of the Conservatives. It's also why Harper keeps walking into political rakes; his control has come at the expense of constructive criticism, innovative solutions and flexibility.
Although he's earned grudging respect from some and absolute admiration from others for his functional fixedness, ability to weather scandals and iron-fisted control of his Caucus, Harper has always done so at the expense of his principles (transparency, openness, accountability, independence) and his people (staff, Caucus members, Senators, bureaucrats, veterans, etc).
Stephen Harper is the epitome of that peculiar breed that dominates our national landscape - the political survivor. He always comes out on top.
What he isn't, though - and never has been - is a leader.
Leadership, like shame, is a concept that we've lost in Canadian politics. True leadership isn't about coming out on top, about bending other people to your will through intimidation or encouraging small thought and in-fighting to protect one's own standing.
Colin Powell puts it best: command is lonely.
Partisan politics may be about numbers - number of memberships signed, dollars raised and doors knocked on. When you put all that stuff first, it's easy to come to the conclusion that it's the team's responsibility to protect their boss through their labour, money and where necessary, by falling on their swords. Again, that's how it's been done in Canadian politics for ages.
Leadership isn't about numbers; it's about vision, example and empowerment. Where do you want to go? What are you willing to do go get there? Why should we follow you?
By dismissing a reliable source of bought loyalty, Trudeau has taken the burden to follow off of Liberal Senators and taken on the responsibility to lead.
We don't have much to go on with the Liberal Leader - but with moves like this, we're seeing hopeful indicators that just maybe he truly understands what leadership means.
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