6 independent senators form 'non-partisan' group
Move comes as Liberal government prepares to announce its 1st Senate appointments
Half a dozen senators say they are forming a working group to promote an "independent, non-partisan" Senate, days after two of them quit the Conservative caucus to sit as independents.
"Partisanship that has been blindly one-sided and lacked impartiality, has seriously eroded the credibility and reputation of the Senate," said senators Diane Bellemare, Jacques Demers, Elaine McCoy, Pierrette Ringuette, Michel Rivard and John Wallace in a joint statement on Thursday.
- ANALYSIS | Senate faces an uncertain future out from under the party whip
- ANALYSIS | Senate Liberals unsure how to work with Trudeau government
The creation of a non-partisan working group in the Senate comes as the Liberal government prepares to announce the first in a series of Senate appointments, with a total of 24 vacancies to fill.
"The objective is to promote a properly functioning independent, non-partisan Senate," the senators said.
The group of six acknowledge that the rules of the chamber — a place for sober second thought — do not formally allow the group to act as a recognized third party, but they hope to change that.
"This must change, as must all existing archaic rules and practices that support this type of partisanship in the Senate and which do not accommodate the requirement of an independent chamber of sober second thought," the senators said.
Advisory board to cost $1M per year
The new Liberal government created an advisory board to recommend "non-partisan" senators to the prime minister.
NDP MP Erin Weir, whose party is in favour of abolishing the Senate, was critical of the costs associated with the government's decision to appoint an advisory board.
"The president of the Treasury Board admitted that the new advisory board for Senate appointments will cost $1 million every year and that its recommendations will be secret," Weir said during question period on Thursday.
Treasury Board President Scott Brison acknowledged the $1 million price tag, but suggested that a Senate free of expense scandals is worth the investment.
Brison said the new appointment process will "ensure that Canadians of the highest merit are named to the Senate of Canada, and I can tell him that this does require some level of investment."
'Status quo' not acceptable
Bellemare and Rivard, who quit the Conservative caucus earlier this week, said they are supportive of the Liberal government's push to make the Senate less partisan.
Rivard told CBC News earlier this week the move is "irreversible" and that he could envisage the day where senators no longer sit according to party lines.
Bellemare said the Senate appointment process is "a step in the right direction," but that it must be backed up by structural changes.
Today, the group of six said they would work to make changes to existing Senate rules and practices.
"The status quo is clearly not acceptable to the general public, nor should it be to any of us as the members of the Senate," the senators said.
"The credibility and integrity of the Senate require nothing less."