A Civic Senate for a New Era

Nick Vlahos

Research output: Contribution to Newspaper/Magazine/BulletinArticle


Many people agree that there are problems with the Canadian ‘Chamber of Sober Second Thought’. The recent debacle of Senate fund misappropriation caps off a long standing concern about the Upper House’s neutrality and accountability. As this has been unfolding, the tradition stating how the Senate is a parliamentary counterbalance to the federal executive has increasingly faced public scrutiny. One argument leveled against the Senate is that it merely operates as an arm of the Prime Minister’s Office. To this point, the Senate has been historically known and more recently exposed in court vis-à-vis the Duffy Affair, to operate in terms of patronage. Senators are traditionally granted their terms by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister. This process has consistently appeared to be a partisan tool for the political control of decisionmaking authority. Party discipline is a notorious part of Canadian politics, and moreover, the partisan stripes of siting Senators are plainly visible: 45 Conservative Senators and 29 so-called “independent” Liberals. Thus, what remains of the 22 vacancies will surely be an ongoing point of contention, even with (and perhaps in spite of) the new advisory panel set up to inform the appointment of Senators.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
Specialist publicationQueen's Policy Review
PublisherQueens University
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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