Calgary·Q&A

Sit up and don't yawn: Paula Simons on Senate live streaming

If you’re all out of Netflix options, don’t worry. The Canadian Senate is now live streaming chamber proceedings for the first time, starting Monday, and an Alberta senator says it’s about Canadians’ right to know what's going on in the upper house.

New building was a new opportunity, says Alberta Senator

Canada's Senate is now live streaming proceedings for the first time. (Canadian Senate)

If you're all out of Netflix options, don't worry. The Canadian Senate is now live streaming chamber proceedings for the first time, starting Monday, and an Alberta senator says it's about Canadians' right to know what's going on in the upper house.

Paula Simons shares her thoughts on this evolution with The Homestretch on the first day.

This interview has been edited and paraphrased for clarity and length. You can listen to the complete interview here.

Paula Simons is an Alberta Senator and former journalist based in Edmonton. (@Paulatics/Twitter)

Q: How are you feeling about this change?

A: It is a bit intimidating to know that you could be caught on camera. We have a very different protocol than the House of Commons, where the cameras are static.

We have directors who are shooting this to make it interesting. There will be cutaways and reaction shots. They have these giant screens, so while you are at your desk, if you can't see who is speaking, you can look up and there they will be.

That's a bit distracting, too.

Q: Why did they make this change? Why now?

A: The old building was not wired for this so when they knew they were going to decommission Centre Block and move us to our temporary headquarters in the old Ottawa train station, they built a Senate chamber from scratch. So they engineered it specifically so we could do this.

There is also a realization that people don't know much about the Senate, they are cynical. There is distrust and lack of interest.

The hope is maybe people will have a better sense of what the Senate does, and why and how, if they can actually watch it.

Q: Have you had any training?

A: I haven't had the special training.

I have my years of knowledge working for CBC before the Edmonton Journal. Don't pick your teeth or put your fingers in your ears. We are going to have to sit up straight, have good posture, try not to yawn or dose off when we sit until midnight.

It's going to be a learning curve for all of us.

I don't know if we are going to be a ratings blockbuster right out the gate.

In November, we had our big, day-long debate about ending the postal workers' strike. That's a really important debate.

I live tweeted it but that's not the same thing as being able to watch it yourself. That was a day that Canadians should have been able to see what we were doing.

Had they watched us, I think they would have had much better insight into the Senate at its best.

There will be days that people actually will want to tune in.

Q: Where are we at with Bill C-69 at the Senate level?

A: I happen to serve on the energy, environment and natural resources committee. We live stream all of those committee hearings.

I think quite a few people did watch Premier Rachel Notley's testimony.

Next month, in theory, we are going to be travelling across Western Canada first, holding public hearings on Bill C-69. One of those is likely to take place in Calgary. We are still working on the details of that.

This is the first time we will hold public hearings on a bill outside of Ottawa. I was among the Senators who pushed for that.

With files from The Homestretch

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