The New Senate: Still in Transition

Article 2 / 11 , Vol 40 No. 1 (Spring)

The New Senate: Still in Transition

Over the course of the past two years, a confluence of events has dramatically altered Canada’s Senate. The upper chamber’s response to the Auditor General’s Report on Senators’ Expenses, the absence of a government caucus in the Senate at the start of the 42nd Parliament, and a new appointment process that brought in a significant number of Independent senators have all contributed to institutional change. In this article, based on his remarks to the 34th Canadian Presiding Officers Conference, Senator George J. Furey provides some observations of the impact of these events from his unique vantage point as Speaker. While acknowledging that these changes have created some tensions, he concludes that this transition can be defined by openness, flexibility, adaptability and a general willingness to move forward slowly without forcing permanent rule changes until the landscape is better defined.

After decades of reform proposals, a recent change has had a significant impact on the Senate. This change is reducing the partisan character of the Senate and making it a more independent, non-affiliated and deliberative body. What is curious about this change, is that it was achieved by non-constitutional means.