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Regional Representation Revitalized in More Independent Senate

EDMONTON – The Senate’s traditional role as a voice for Canada’s regions is being revitalized thanks to an increasingly independent Senate committed to putting partisanship aside, the Government Representative in the Upper Chamber told an Edmonton audience today.

Senator Peter Harder, one of the first Independents appointed under the new non-partisan selection process one year ago, told the Canadian Club of Edmonton that sober second thought means reviewing legislation to ensure it’s in the best interest of Canadians – not a political party.

Regional representation in the Senate was a cornerstone of Confederation, and should remain a priority as Canada celebrates its 150th birthday this year, Senator Harder said. The Senator is on a two-day tour to discuss Senate renewal efforts with Albertans, who have traditionally been crucial contributors to the conversation on reform. 

“The Senate is returning to its roots to ensure the voices of Canadians from all regions are heard when we deliberate, debate and decide on legislation,” Senator Harder said.

The removal of senators from political parties allows them to vote independently — without direction from party leadership in the House of Commons. Edmontonians and Canadians across the country can be increasingly confident that their views will be heard within the upper chamber. There are currently 42 Independents in the Senate, 39 Tories, 18 Independent Liberals and six vacancies.

In the past year, several bills have either been amended in the Senate or changed by the government at the suggestion of the Senators, including legislation for medically-assisted dying, consumer protection, gender discrimination under the Indian Act and new provisions for motor vehicle safety.

“A renewed Senate plays an important role in developing good laws,” Senator Harder said.

The Senate is also moving forward to make the institution more independent, transparent and accountable.

Senate expenses and attendance records are now published on a publicly accessible website, and proposals to televise Senate debates and to implement a new added oversight mechanism on Senators’ expenses is being reviewed.

Ministers also attend the Senate’s Question Period on a weekly basis to answer questions.

“The reforms so far are notable but the project is far from finished. Let’s keep the momentum going on a path toward a fully independent Senate,” Senator Harder said.