Edmonton

Alberta Sen. Paula Simons tweets to lift 'mystery' from Red Chamber

As Paula Simons wrapped up one of her longest days inside the Senate, the rookie senator cheekily tweeted her plans for the evening.

'There is so much mystery around the Senate and so much misunderstanding'

Paula Simons, a columnist with the Edmonton Journal, argues that Pasieka's case shows that mandatory minimum sentences are flawed. (Twitter/Paul Simons)

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." 

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.

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. 

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." 

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."

Live tweeting from the Red Chamber. Up next, we'll talk to former Edmonton Journal columnist - Paula Simons - about social media and the senate. 8:35