Liberals’ new Senate appointment process has some good merit criteria but advisory board lacks independence and is partisan as only Liberals chose board members

To ensure advisory board is not a partisan facade, most party leaders must approve most board members, and PM must disclose whether senators he chooses come from board nominees

Senators appointed under new process will be just as partisan as past senators because board nominees secret, and Liberal PM allowed to ignore board and choose whomever he wants

Senators will still be appointed which is fundamentally undemocratic – and reforms won’t have full effect for decades – so abolition still the best long-term solution and it will happen someday

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

OTTAWA – Today, in response to the announcement of the members of the Liberals’ new Senate appointment advisory board, Democracy Watch called for changes to make the board actually independent and non-partisan.  And while some parts of the merit-based criteria for being nominated by the board are good, they still contain the discriminatory constitutional requirements that senators be at least 30 years old, and own property worth at least $4,000 and other assets worth at least $4,000.

Given the problems with the Liberals’ proposed reforms, and any other possible reforms, and given that senators will still be appointed which is fundamentally undemocratic, Democracy Watch’s position is still that abolition of the Senate is the best solution, and that this will become more and more clear over time to more and more Canadians and will eventually happen.

“As it is currently set up, the Liberals’ new Senate appointment advisory board is a partisan façade that will result in partisan Senate appointments.  To make the advisory board actually independent and non-partisan, not just the Liberals but also at least a majority of federal party leaders should approve at least a majority of the board members — and even better would be approval by all party leaders of all board members,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa. “Senators appointed under the new process will be just as tainted by partisanship as past senators because the board will provide a secret list of nominees to Prime Minister Trudeau who can then ignore the board and appoint whomever he wants to the Senate. Either the board or the Prime Minister must be required to disclose whether the Prime Minister appoints someone from the list of board nominees.”

The problem with the structure of the Liberals’ Senate appointment advisory board is that it is tainted by partisanship because all the members are chosen by only the federal Liberals, and as a result it lacks independence.  To be independent of the ruling party, and therefore non-partisan, at least a majority of members of the board should be approved by at least a majority of federal party leaders (and even better would be all board members approved by all federal party leaders).

The other big problem with Liberals’ new process is that the board will provide a secret list of nominees to Prime Minister Trudeau, who can then ignore the board’s suggestions and choose whomever he wants.  Either the board or the Prime Minister must be required to disclose whether the Prime Minister appointed someone from the list of board nominees.  This solution will protect the privacy of the board nominees who are not chosen while checking the partisanship of the process.

It will take 10 years before a majority of senators will be selected through the Liberals’ proposed system, and the system doesn’t guarantee that new senators will be any less partisan than current and past senators (some may retire early but 31 senators are required to retire by the end of 2019, and 31 more between 2020 and the end of 2024).  The pace of required retirements slows after 2024 to a few each year on average, and as a result it will take until the end of 2049 before all the current senators will be gone.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca


Democracy Watch’s Shut Down the Senate campaign page