Former Ponoka resident eyes a seat in the Senate

A former Ponoka resident is making an attempt at being appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Canadian Senator hopeful James Risdon

Canadian Senator hopeful James Risdon

A former Ponoka resident is making an attempt at being appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Stephen Harper with the expressed intention of taking the Senate to a higher level of functionality.

James Risdon, who lived in Ponoka some two decades ago before switching career paths and becoming a journalist, has launched an online campaign with a view to mustering enough support to attract the prime minister’s attention to be shortlisted for consideration.

Risdon said in an e-mail interview that while the salary and benefits package that come with being appointed as a senator are no negligible upgrades, he had two other major motives for his effort.

“First of all, I want to open up the Senate to what is often called ‘average Canadians’,” Risdon said.

“I’m one of those average Canadians. I don’t golf or have drinks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, I’ve never been invited to the Queen’s palace, and just don’t move in those circles. I’m not on national TV on a regular basis. And, under normal circumstances, that means I would probably never, ever be considered for a seat in Senate.”

Having said that, though, Risdon went on to list why he felt he was fit for the position, unlike more average Canadians, for his knowledge of the way the government works, his post-secondary degrees and his fluent use of both official languages.

“Secondly, the Senate is a place where the future is being considered now, where people are preparing position papers on what we, as a country, should do to get ready for the changes which are coming down the pipe. That’s exciting stuff. And I want to be a part of that. I want to leave my mark and work with deep thinkers on the issues, which will affect Canadians,” Risdon wrote in reference to his second motive.

With regard to the role of the Senate in Canada’s political system, Risdon indicated that he had no problems with the appointed status of the body as opposed to being elected.

“The Senate is a place for sober second thought. And the best way to ensure people are free to think things through clearly is to avoid undue pressure on them. When our Senate was created, it was freed of the need to have its members elected. Canadian senators can instead focus on the job without being pressured to adopt this or that popular notion which may or may not be correct,” he opined.

Despite that conviction, the Senate hopeful did agree that, the political body did not command much authority.

”In Canada, we have the Rodney Dangerfield of senates. It don’t (sic) get no respect,” Risdon wrote.

“And with the recent Senate scandals, we may all be thinking, ‘Well, no wonder!’ But that’s the past. The fact remains that the Senate does a lot of very good work and it can do more.”

As to what he wants to personally achieve, Risdon appears to have already drawn up a strategy with regard to tackling issues of importance for the Senate and the nation.

“My first priority when I get appointed to the Senate will be to immerse myself in the existing files facing the Senate,” Risdon wrote in his email.

“There are a lot of issues I see a need to address.”

Among them are ways of developing responses to man-made and natural disasters, the need to “jumpstart innovation, research and development in Canada” and betterment of healthcare standards nationwide.

Risdon also says he will work hard to remove all tuition fees in post-secondary education.

The petition by Risdon calling for his appointment to the Senate can be seen at the following link: http://www.change.org/petitions/prime-minister-stephen-harper-appoint-james-risdon-to-the-senate.