Inside Politics

About those Senate attendance records...

Earlier this week, we published a Canadian Press story about the difficulty of tracking the attendance records of Senators: something that requires old-fashioned, in-person paper searching in a Senate office in downtown Ottawa. In an "open government" era, some believe its time to make these records available electronically.

Today, Senator David Tkachuk, the chair of the Senate's internal economy committee, responded to that report.


July 31, 2012

The Senate is the only legislative house in Canada that has kept and published attendance records since 1867. This is hardly an effort to hide this information, as two individuals quoted in the article maintain.

Mr. Eaves, one of those individuals, states that the Senate is resistant to making its information available online. This simply is not true. Senate Debates and Journals are available online going back to 1996.

The Internal Economy Committee is now providing as much information as possible on a range of other issues. Annual reports on activities, quarterly reports on senators' expenses, reports on contracts exceeding $10,000, audited financial statements and detailed reports on the activities and expenditures of committees.

The Senate has a robust audit program. The results of those audits are tabled in the Senate and are publicly available. Our financial records, I am proud to say publicly again, have received unqualified opinions by outside auditors.

We have recently undertaken a major redesign of our committee websites specifically to make them easier to find, navigate and search. I invite anyone interested in the Senate's work to come take a look.

We have been making every effort to invite as many people as possible to learn more about what Senate committees are doing. This includes a very well received Twitter account, @SenateCA/@SenatCA, through which we inform Canadians interested in certain subject matters or in the parliamentary process of what our committees are doing.

We are committed as an institution to responsibly manage the public resources entrusted to us and to behave with probity, transparency and accountability.

As the article indicated, our committee has been asked to review the rules on attendance. This would include the question of how to access attendance records and related information. Following discussion, we will seek approval from the Senate of any proposed changes.

Senator David Tkachuk
Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

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