Prime Minister Brian Mulroney received permission today from Queen Elizabeth II to expand the Canadian Senate. Mulroney wants the eight additional senators to push through a controversial new tax.
The eight have been notified of their appointments, and they will likely be named today, government sources in Ottawa said. An opposition leader called Mulroney's unprecedented move "unbelievable."
Mulroney made the request based on an obscure section of the 1867 Constitution as a last resort to save the unpopular goods and services tax.
Such a request had only been made once before in Canada's 123-year history, and that appeal was not granted.
The section of the Constitution allows the British monarch to add four or eight members to the Senate on a request by the governor-general, the Canadian representative to the Commonwealth.
John Haslam, a spokesman for the queen, said in London that Elizabeth, as the constitutional monarch of the former British colony, was following the provisions of the Canadian Constitution in making the decision.
The measure would expand the Senate to 112 seats from 104 and establish a slim Tory plurality. The new senators will be appointed by Mulroney and therefore be members of his Conservative Party.
But even with the additional seats, the fate of the tax could rest on the votes of a handful of Independents.
The Liberals now hold 52 seats and the Tories 46, with one Reform Party representative, four Independents and one Independent Liberal.
British Columbia has said it will challenge Ottawa's ability to create the extra Senate seats, and Ontario has said it may join that campaign.