Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to fill Senate vacancies with some of his closest Conservative backers in the second round of Red Chamber patronage appointments in less than a year.
Mr. Harper’s campaign chair, Doug Finley, and his long-time communications assistant, Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, are set to become senators in the coming days. Conservative Party president Don Plett is also on the list of Senate nominees.
Mr. Finley was a key player in the controversial “in-and-out” advertising system in the 2006 election, in which the Conservative Party sent funds to local campaigns to buy national television ads. The strategy allowed the party to stay within maximum spending limits, but has come under sharp criticism by Elections Canada. Mr. Finley is expected to take an Ontario seat, while Mr. Plett will be a Manitoba senator and Ms. Stewart-Olsen will represent New Brunswick.
This is the second time in a row that Mr. Harper has appointed senators when Parliament is not sitting, allowing him to escape opposition attacks. He named 18 new Conservative senators to the Liberal-dominated chamber last December, just before Christmas, including party fundraisers and officials.
While Mr. Harper has long been critical of the Senate and its appointment system, and had vowed not to fill any vacancies until reforms had been put in place, he argued last year that he had to start making his own nominations.