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Canada’s Senate: on the cusp of change?

Today my POLM5001 class from the Riddell Program in Political Management headed back to Parliament Hill for a series of meetings regarding the Senate. It was a fascinating time to visit the red chamber, as the next few weeks could see a drastic change in how it operates.

Charles Robert, the Clerk of the Senate, began the visit with an overview of the institution’s function in Canada’s system of government and its evolution over time. Céline Ethier and Nataltie Fletcher, respectively from the offices of Senators Fraser and Carignan, then gave an overview of the current political positions in the Chamber (Speaker, Leader of the Opposition, etc.) and the careers available to staff. Finally, Senator Jim Munson shared his experiences representing Ontario and championing the cause of children with disabilities.

I’m grateful to all of the speakers for making the time to meet with the students, and for helping us to work through how the Senate may change if the Trudeau government chooses not to appoint a Leader of the Government in the Senate.

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Thoughts on the Liberal plan for parliamentary reform

What will the Liberal plan for parliamentary reform look like in practice? Will it actually change how Parliament works? The Hill Times asked for my thoughts on the Liberal plan as part of an article that appears in this week’s issue. Unfortunately its available by subscription only, but my general points were:

  1. The reforms, especially those to Commons committees and the Senate, could substantially increase the autonomy of Parliament.
  2. Implementing the changes will be very hard since the Liberals have a large legislative agenda, and their proposed reforms would slow their ability to quickly push that agenda through Parliament.
  3. The reforms could go much further.