09/07/2012 10:05 EDT | Updated 11/07/2012 05:12 EST

Harper fills 5 Senate vacancies

Prime Minister Stephen Harper filled five vacancies in the Senate on Friday, announcing the appointment of one woman and four men to sit in the upper chamber.

The new senators are:

- Diane Bellemare, Quebec.

- Tobias C. Enverga Jr., Ontario.

- Thanh Hai Ngo, Ontario.

- Thomas Johnson McInnis, Nova Scotia.

- Paul E. McIntyre, New Brunswick.

"It is a pleasure to announce the appointment of these five distinguished Canadians to the Senate of Canada," Harper said in a media release. "Their broad range of experience and dedication to community will further strengthen the institution and benefit the entire country."

Harper said all the new appointees support the Conservatives' position on Senate reform, including proposed legislation to limit term length and electing nominees for Senate appointments.

"I look forward to working with these talented individuals," Harper said. "Their skills and experience will help to further advance our shared goals of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians."

The release was issued early Friday morning while Harper was on a plane en route to the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, Russia.

The latest appointments bolster the Conservative majority in the Senate to 62 of the 105 total seats. The Liberals have 40.

Varied backgrounds

Bellemare is an economist who was once a star candidate for Mario Dumont's Action Démocratique du Québec, but failed to win a seat in the Quebec national assembly. She served as an economic advisor to Dumont when he was the opposition leader in Quebec City.

Recently, Bellemare criticized the Harper government's employment insurance reforms in French-language media in Quebec. In an op-ed she authored in the Montreal daily Le Devoir, Bellemare said the Conservatives are only addressing the symptoms of a dysfunctional labour market instead of getting at the root causes. She suggested the reforms could result in more people applying for social assistance programs rather than accepting low-paying jobs.

Enverga has a business background, working at Bank of Montreal for 30 years as a project manager. The Toronto resident is the founder of the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation. He was elected to the Toronto Catholic District School Board in 2010.

Ngo was appointed a citizenship judge in Ottawa in 2007. He came to Canada as a refugee from Vietnam in 1975 and is highly involved in the Vietnamese community.

Ngo has a background in education and chaired the Employment Insurance Board of Referees prior to his appointment as a citizenship judge.

McInnis is a lawyer who lives in Sheet Harbour, N.S., and a former federal Progressive Conservative candidate. He ran for a seat in the House of Commons in 2000, but before that had served in Nova Scotia's house of assembly from 1978 to 1993. He was appointed to the Halifax N.B. He currently chairs the New Brunswick Review Board.

McIntyre ran unsuccessfully as a Progressive Conservative candidate provincially in New Brunswick in 2003.

Speaking with CBC Radio's Jacques Poitras following news of his appointment, McIntyre, 67, thanked Harper for the opportunity to join the Senate.

"I told the prime minister I don't seek personal or financial gains. Becoming a senator for me means tackling the issues facing both the country and the world we live in … I want to make a difference," McIntyre said, adding he recognizes his new job is a political appointment but that he plans on working hard for all of New Brunswick.

McIntyre writes poetry, mostly in French, in his spare time.

The NDP criticized the new appointments, issuing a statement that quoted a 2004 statement the prime minister made when he said he would not name appointees to the Senate if he were in power, and that anyone who sits in Parliament should be elected.

"He just doesn't care how many promises he breaks or how many rules are bent or broken," the NDP's ethics critic Alexandre Boulerice said.

Harper has now made 53 appointments to the Senate.