The opposition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s recent Senate appointments seems strongest from those who readily accept government hand outs to fund their own political activity. Curious isn’t it: they can happily accept government subsidies, but the PM is criticized for exercising his legal right to recommend appointees to the Governor General. Critics decry such appointments as “patronage.”
Canadian-style patronage is something that the Grits made into somewhat of an art-form after decades of practice. Even while in opposition they block every attempt to reform the Senate, which, by the way, they dominated with 58 0f the 87 seats. Before the PM’s latest round of appointments, the Conservatives had only 20 seats.
Then there is the parsimonious Green Party whose very existence as a national movement would be in doubt were it not for government subsidies. And their leader, Elizabeth May, was only recently boasting that she had been offered a seat in the Red Chamber—and she seemed quite ready to accept the offer.
As for the Liberals: having lost the ability to tap the pockets of their big-business friends to keep their party afloat financially, they now rely on government subsidies for the majority of their funding.
Here is a useful definition of political patronage, I found it here:
Political patronage is the dispensation of favours or rewards such as public office, jobs, contracts, subsidies, prestige or other valued benefits by a patron (who controls their dispensation) to a client. In return, the client supplies the patron with some valued service, such as voting for the patron's party or providing money or labour for electoral campaigning. The relationship between patron and client is typically unequal, selective and discretionary; the patron does not generally grant favours to all potential clients but picks and chooses among them.
There is nothing illegal or even shady about this when Canadian tradition has for decades dictated that the PM should select Senate candidates of his own choice.