Senators yearn for more modern, less partisan upper house
Survey results suggest senators are chafing under partisan processes and leadership
The Senate should televise proceedings, senators should elect their own Speaker and question period in the Senate is a waste of time.
Those are some of the findings of a bipartisan group of senators who worked for six months to find consensus among their peers on how to reform the Senate from within.
The results of the work undertaken by Conservative Senator Stephen Greene and Liberal-appointed Senator Paul Massicotte clearly show senators are chafing under a partisan system, eager to do their work independently and in public.
- Read the senators' report (PDF)
- Senators to meet in private to talk Red Chamber reform
- Conservative senators bristle at Trudeau Senate reforms
The two men briefed their respective caucuses on the results last month and are now urging the Senate to implement their recommendations as soon as possible.
Greene and Massicotte started their work last spring by asking senators to fill out a questionnaire asking for input on how to modernize the upper house and make it more efficient. Twenty-seven filled it out and then at the end of October, 40 senators of all political stripes gathered in Ottawa for three days to figure out how to move forward.
Participating senators agreed that:
- Votes should not be whipped.
- The daily schedule is a waste of time.
- Senators should occasionally form caucuses along regional instead of party lines.
- Proceedings should be televised.
- Senators need not be identified in the chamber by political party.
One of the broadest areas of consensus concerned the Senate Speaker.
In their final report, Greene and Massicotte recommend senators select their own Speaker by secret ballot for a period of up to three years. They also say senators should have the power to challenge the Speaker.
Right now the prime minister selects the Senate Speaker, usually for the life of the Parliament.
Senators also recommend an "issue period" instead of question period with the focus on committee work, Ministers and officers of Parliament would occasionally be summoned to the Senate floor on occasion to respond to specific questions.
The report also reveals that long-winded speeches are also fraying nerves in the Red Chamber. The committee recommends that retirement tributes be limited to a short thank you by caucus leaders.