When the Senate expenses scandal hit in 2012, it left the parties scrambling to reform the deeply unpopular institution. Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper had taken small steps over the past several years, but was hitting major constitutional roadblocks. Justin Trudeau took a different approach: in 2014, he removed the Liberal senators from caucus and asked them to sit as independents. Then in 2016, his government introduced a nonpartisan appointment process.

These attempts to decrease the Senate’s partisanship and increase its legitimacy have had mixed results. On one hand, the Senate is operating less on party lines, with senators from all groups more active in introducing legislative amendments; on the other, the process by which legislation moves through the senate has become much more complex.

Walking us through the effect these changes are having on Canada’s upper chamber is an all-star panel of guests: Yonah Martin, the deputy leader of the opposition in the Senate; Ratna Omidvar, one of the first new senators with the Independent Senators Group; Emmett Macfarlane, associate professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and author of the IRPP study, The Renewed Canadian Senate: Organizational Challenges and Relations with the Government; and Leslie Seidle, director of the IRPP research program Canada’s Changing Federal Community.

For more information on the Senate renewal, check out the IRPP studies by Emmett Macfarlane and Paul G. Thomas, as well as the IRPP’s round-table report.

Download for free. New episodes every second Wednesday. Tweet your questions and comments to @IRPP or @jbugiel.

Photo: The Senate of Canada


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Yonah Martin
Yonah Martin is a Conservative senator from British Columbia. She is currently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
Ratna Omidvar
Ratna Omidvar is an independent senator from Ontario.
Emmett Macfarlane
Emmett Macfarlane est professeur adjoint de science politique à l'Université de Waterloo. Ses recherches sont axées sur les liens entre gouvernance, droits et politiques publiques, avec un intérêt particulier pour l'incidence de la Charte des droits et libertés, et le rôle de la Cour suprême.
F. Leslie Seidle
Leslie Seidle, consultant en politiques publiques et gouvernance, est directeur de recherche du programme de l'IRPP Évolution de la communauté fédérale canadienne.