Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Tres Catholic Speaker

This has been woefully undercovered out there -- quel surprise! -- but, last week, Stephen Harper was sworn in as Canada's 22nd Prime Minister.

As is the case with a new government, and especially given the Conservative ascendancy after 12 years of Liberal rule, the new PM cleared the decks of state and installed his own picks in the Cabinet and other senior political posts.

One selection of note to this audience was Harper's pick of New Brunswick Senator Noel Kinsella as Speaker of the Canadian Senate. The Conservatives are in the minority in the Upper House of Parliament, but the Speaker always comes from the party in government across the hall in the House of Commons.

Kinsella, 66, is of note here as he's got Catholic cred which would make most clergy blush.

For a layman -- let alone a politician -- it is simply exceptional: four degrees from the Roman pontifical universities; a license and Ph.D from the Angelicum, and an S.T.L. and S.T.D. from the Lateran. Returning to Canada, the Speaker taught at St. Thomas University in New Brunswick and remains head of the Atlantic Human Rights Commission there. He was named to the Senate, an appointed body, by former Conservative PM Brian Mulroney in 1990.

When will we see anything like this in the States? Um, never. I'm not talking about the appointed Senate, but the four-pontifical-degrees-holding senior officer of state.

Kinsella has garnered heat from the socially-conservative fringes of his party for his stringent support of a 2004 hate-crime bill which would have protected gays and lesbians from hate speech. The new Senate Speaker, who is fourth in the order of civil precedence, is seen as a "Red Tory," a term used for the socially-progressive branch of the Conservative party.