OTTAWA, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed nine Conservatives to vacant Senate seats, one of them a former National Hockey League coach.
Harper's appointments increased the Conservative presence in the 105-seat upper house to 46 seats, closing in on the Liberals' 53 seats, the Globe and Mail reported from Ottawa. The balance of the seats are scattered among other parties and independents.
Among the appointees are a former premier, academics, a journalist and Jacques Demers, who won a Stanley Cup in 1993 as coach of the Montreal Canadiens, the Canwest News Service reported.
A day earlier, Harper's aides said all nine appointees support the prime minister's goal of having an elected Senate with eight-year term limits. In a statement Thursday, Harper defending the partisan appointments.
"If Senate vacancies are to be filled, they should be filled with individuals who support the legislative agenda of our democratically elected government, including Senate reform and real action against gang- and drug-related crime," Harper said.
Several more Senate vacancies will come up this fall as several senators reach the mandatory retirement age of 75, and Canwest said by early next year Harper could be in a position to create a Conservative majority in the upper house.
In the past 12 months, Harper has appointed 27 new senators, a Canadian record, the report said.