Alberta Sen. Paula Simons tweets to lift 'mystery' from Red Chamber
'There is so much mystery around the Senate and so much misunderstanding'
As Paula Simons wrapped up one of her longest days inside the Red Chamber, the rookie senator cheekily tweeted her plans for the evening.
"This special sitting the Senate is now adjourned," Simons wrote Monday. "Am now going to order chicken wings from room service and eat in my nightgown.
"Enjoy that image, if you can."
And this special sitting the Senate is now adjourned. Am now going to order chicken wings from room service and eat in my nightgown. Enjoy that image, if you can.—@Paulatics
While Simons's post about chicken wings was all in fun, most of her social media posts documenting her first few weeks as senator have been strictly business.
Simons, appointed to the Senate in October, has been documenting hearings and debates, her first bilingual speech, and ceremonies rarely seen by the public such as acts of royal assent.
Extraordinary late afternoon light in a Senate corridor. <a href="https://t.co/IKE3G7VUU9">pic.twitter.com/IKE3G7VUU9</a>—@Paulatics
On Monday, she live-tweeted the debate over third reading of Bill C-89, back-to-work legislation for striking Canada Post workers.
"I haven't tweeted like that since I was covering the arena debates at Edmonton city council," said Simons, who served as a longtime columnist with the Edmonton Journal.
"But it was like riding a horse or riding a bicycle. I guess that's the thing you don't forget."
Simons fired off 137 tweets during seven hours of debate, including her struggle over how she was going to vote.
In the end, the legislation passed after Simons voted against it.
If Independent Senators simply endorse the bill, we run the very real risk of being called out and derided as de facto Liberals, as government appointees who are doing what the government wants. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SenCa?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SenCa</a>—@Paulatics
BUT - if we defeat the bill, we run a different risk, the risk of undermining the Independence experiment, by defying the will of Parliament, and looking like we don't understand constitutional conventions of deference. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SenCA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SenCA</a>—@Paulatics
This leaves me to mull many things. I am not a fan of strikes. Like many Canadians, I find them annoying and inconvenient. And in this case, there's no doubt rotating strikes at Christmas time will be a huge and expensive pain for many merchants and shoppers. That said....—@Paulatics
Simons said there is a strong reason for her frenetic presence on social media. She wants to make the Senate more transparent.
While the work of the Senate is public, sittings are not broadcast on television, leaving Canadians with few avenues to see what happens inside.
"There is so much mystery around the senate and so much misunderstanding," Simons said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.
"I was doing it to keep myself focused and paying attention, but also to help people follow along and I was astonished by the number of people who were responding positively to me."
All the food was gone like a plague of locusts had descended.- Sen. Paula Simons
Simons said documenting the debates also helps her to form opinions and get a sense of public reaction.
"I really didn't think that my tweeting was distracting me from the debate, quite the contrary.
"I really find that, as a journalist by training, that tweeting helps me listen and digest and helps me process my own thinking," Simons said.
Her tweets forced her to stay in the room for every speech, leading her to miss out on the sandwiches, she said.
"By the time the bells were ringing, all the food was gone like a plague of locusts had descended."
AHa! Now Housakos is criticizing me and my tweets. Says there is nothing historic about this debate, says the senate has always debated issues and today is no different. He takes quite pointed issue with my tweets, though he doesn't name me. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SenCA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SenCA</a>—@Paulatics
Simons said being present on social media also keeps her accountable to the public as she learns in the ins and outs of her new role.
"As far as my tweets revealing some of my ignorance of Senate procedure, yes this is true," she said. "I have been a senator for a couple of weeks and I'd never seen a vote like this.
"I'm learning and I'm happy to be transparent about that too."
Unless she's told to stop, Simons said she will keep tweeting.
"People have asked me if I'm allowed to do that. No one has told me I can't do that.
"Is it possible that someone might raise a point of order that I'm somehow disruptive? I guess, but I was typing pretty quietly."