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Harper appoints three failed candidates to Senate, two of them returnees

Stephen Harper has tabbed three people who couldn’t get elected to the Commons to help him bring elections to the Senate.

The prime minister sent three defeated Tory candidates to the upper house on Wednesday, including two who quit the Senate just two months ago to run for seats in the House of Commons.

Larry Smith and Fabian Manning are returning to the Senate along with Josee Verner, a former Harper cabinet minister. All three were defeated May 2.

Harper said the trio will support his government’s efforts to reform the Senate, including imposing eight-year term limits on senators and creating a process for electing them.

“Our government will continue to push for a more democratic, accountable and effective Senate,” he said in a news release.

But NDP Leader Jack Layton said there’s nothing democratic about appointing three people who were rejected by voters two weeks ago.

“This is wrong,”Layton said. “This is completely undemocratic. It’s a slap in the face of Canadian voters.

“Mr. Harper talks about Senate reform but he’s doing things in the same old way, in fact, even worse … The ink is barely dry on their rejection notices and they’re being appointed to the Senate.”

Layton said the appointments are symptomatic of the hypocrisy and “culture of entitlement” that pervades politics and breeds cynicism among voters.

“You should earn your place in the Senate and, if you can’t get elected, you shouldn’t be appointed to the Senate two weeks later, that’s for sure.”

Smith is back in the Senate after running third in a Montreal riding in the May 2 election. On election night, he said he had “no illusions of returning to the Senate because I have resigned and that was a condition of me running.”

The former commissioner of the CFL was considered a star recruit. He was first appointed to the Senate last December but resigned in March in order to run for the Commons.

Manning, a well-known Newfoundland politician, was first appointed to the Senate in 2009 after losing his seat in the 2008 election. He, too, resigned to run in the May 2 election, in which he finished a close second to Liberal Scott Andrews.

Verner had held various posts in Harper’s cabinet since 2006. She lost her Quebec City seat on May 2 to New Democrat Alexandrine Latendresse.

The appointments solidify Harper’s control over the 105-seat Senate. There are now 55 Conservative senators to the Liberals’ 45. There are four independents and one vacancy.

Harper announced the appointments in a news release shortly after speaking with reporters about his new cabinet. Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Senate, was left to field questions about the new senators.

LeBreton said the voters were “not wrong” in rejecting all three, whom she praised as “outstanding” individuals. But she insisted Harper has no choice but to appoint senators until he can implement his promised reforms, which have been thwarted until now by minority parliaments.

“Until we have that new system, we will work with the system we have,” she said.

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch, an advocacy group, said police should investigate whether Smith and Manning were promised reappointment to the Senate if they lost the election.

Under the Criminal Code, Conacher said, it’s illegal to entice parliamentarians to resign for reward or profit.