The Liberals are facing some big challenges as they get down to the business of governing the country, says a West Block panel of experts, and there is reason for both pessimism and optimism moving forward.
In a round table discussion moderated by The West Block’s Tom Clark this weekend, Global News’ Vassy Kapelos pointed out that one of the first big projects being taken on by Justin Trudeau’s party – Senate reform – is already facing some blowback.
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“I think that there’s a lot of genuine criticism about this idea that they put forth – this committee that is sort of magically going to reform the partisan nature of the Senate,” Kapelos said. “I mean, in essence, the prime minister still has a full veto… I’m not sure it necessarily does all the Liberals say it will do.”
The Ottawa Citizen’s Mark Kennedy had a more positive view of the Liberal plan to institute a five-member committee to provide a non-binding shortlist to the prime minister each time a Senate vacancy opens up.
“We’re all trained to be skeptics and that it’s good to be skeptical,” he said. “On this one, I think it’s bold, I think it’s adventurous and I think it’s going to make a difference … It’s not going to be done overnight. Give it a year, give it two, give it three, give it four, the place is going to change.”
Evan Solomon of Sirius XM Radio and Maclean’s Magazine noted that unless Ottawa is willing to make changes to the Constitution in consultation with the provinces, real Senate reform will remain out of reach.
“I’m still weary of unelected officials acting independent of our elected officials, so I don’t know how much I want them to start acting independently. If you believe that there ought to be a check and balance system, let’s elect (senators).”
The panel also tackled the Liberal government’s many election promises, saying their ability to spend money to fulfill those pledges may be seriously hampered by a grim economic forecast.
“I had a couple of sit downs with ministers this week, minister of infrastructure and minister of veterans affairs,” Kapelos said.
“They promised a ton of spending, especially in infrastructure. Both of them unequivocal, they will spend the money they said they will spend. They seem to think this magic deficit that they’ve promised for the next three years, the modest deficit, will be the magic wand that they can wave to make their spending promises happen. I just wonder how realistic it is.”