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Liberals’ new Senate appointment process has some good merit criteria but advisory board lacks independence and is tainted as Liberals will choose majority of members

To be independent and non-partisan, at least a majority of all party leaders must approve at least a majority of members of appointment advisory board

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: Thursday, December 3, 2015

OTTAWA – Today, in response to the announcement 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.

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.

The problem with the structure of the Liberals’ proposed Senate appointment board is that it is tainted by partisanship because all five members will be selected by only the federal Liberals, and as a result it will lack independence.

“To make the proposed Senate appointment advisory board actually independent and non-partisan not just the Liberals but also at least a majority of federal party leaders must approve a majority of the members of the board — and it would be even better if approval by all party leaders was required for all board members,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa. “Just calling the board independent and non-partisan does not make it independent and non-partisan and unless changes are made Liberal-dominated nature of the board will taint it and make the people it nominates to be senators also partisan and very likely Liberal-dominated.”

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Shut Down the Senate campaign page