News Release

Senate renewal represents progress, but further changes are necessary

February 21, 2019 Print

Montreal – Three years after implementation of a new process for selecting senators, a just-released report by the Institute for Research on Public Policy assesses the changes and explores potential next steps.

In December 2015 the federal government announced a new, nonpartisan process to advise on Senate appointments. It established the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments, which proposes candidates from pools of interested Canadians who have applied.  Almost all the senators appointed since March 2016 have joined the Independent Senators Group, which now has 54 members in the 105-seat second chamber.

The report summarizes the round-table discussion on the effects of this move, organized by the IRPP in September 2018 and attended by academic experts, representatives from the Senate and senior government officials.

At that round table, there was general agreement that the Senate is performing its legislative review function even more effectively than in the past. Despite proposing more amendments to government bills than previously, the renewed Senate is nevertheless generally respecting the principle of deference to the House of Commons.

Participants also noted that the new open nomination process has helped to diversify the second chamber’s membership. At the time of the round table, 44 percent of senators were women and 11 percent were Indigenous people.

Although the new process for selecting senators has no statutory basis and could be reversed by a future government, no one at the round table called for a return to intergovernmental negotiations on constitutional reform of the Senate.

“The clearest consensus was that, while the new rules represent an improvement, further changes are needed to reflect the move towards a Senate organized much less according to party lines,” says IRPP President and CEO Graham Fox. A number of potential changes proposed by round-table participants are included in the report.

Renewal of the Canadian Senate: Where to from Here? can be downloaded from the Institute’s website.

The Institute for Research on Public Policy is an independent, national, bilingual, not-for-profit organization based in Montreal. To receive updates from the IRPP, please subscribe to our e‑mail list.

Media contact:  Shirley Cardenas, tel. 514-594-6877

Renewal of the Canadian Senate: Where to from Here?

Renewal of the Canadian Senate: Where to from Here?

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Shirley Cardenas
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Tel. 514-594-6877 •