Peter Harder, Trudeau's Senate representative, seeks $800K budget, gets half

Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, has seen his office budget increased to $400,000 - not the $800,000 he sought to match the amount his predecessor received during his tenure. At least not yet.

Senate's administrative committee to further review budget allocations

Government representative in the Senate Peter Harder was denied his full request for the budget allocated to his predecessor by the internal economy committee - but he will get a $400,000 boost. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Peter Harder, the government representative in the Senate, has seen his office budget increased to $400,000 — but not the $800,000 he sought to match the amount his predecessor Claude Carignan received during his tenure.

At least not yet.

The Senate's standing committee on internal economy, budgets and administration decided to review its allocations in light of the Upper Chamber's new realities, and in the meantime has increased Harder's budget to $400,000 from $250,000, a spokesperson for committee chair Leo Housako confirmed Thursday.

However, the decision to increase Harder's budget to was not a unanimous one. Three members of the committee — senators Denise Batters, Don Plett and David Tkachuk — voted against increasing Harder's office funding, according to minutes of the meeting. 

A sub-committee has been created to review the remainder of Harder's request for additional funding. The sub-committee will report back on May 12, Jacqui Delaney said in an email to CBC News, adding that the committee's discussions and decisions were made in public.

Harder appeared before the committee last week to ask for the $800,000 normally reserved for the government leader in the Senate, and argued the money was necessary to help him usher government legislation through the upper chamber.

"The role that I have assumed, while somewhat different than in the past, is very much like the role that was provided for and budgeted for previously, and in many respects given the challenge of managing a larger number of independents in the chamber ... [this] is perhaps even a more complex role," he said.

Overseeing independents

Harder, who was named to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sits as an independent. The Liberals have said his appointment was made in an effort to modernize the Senate to make it a more effective, less partisan and more transparent body moving forward. However, this mandate make his job more complex, Harder said.

With less government-affiliated members in the senate, Harder said he suspects it will be a more difficult task to oversee and ensure legislation is pushed through the chamber.

The Conservatives on the internal economy committee wanted to know how Harder was going to use the money, and how he would allocate funds within the Senate. They were skeptical as to how the Senate would operate if partisan caucuses disappeared, considering the growing number of independent senators.

Harder said the money would also be used to hire least nine people for his office to help manage the independent members of the Senate.

The money Harder was advocating for would be in addition to the $188,000 all senators are allocated to run their offices. Harder estimates the cost of hiring the new staff would be between $787,000 to $886,000, bringing his total office costs to approximately $million.

Harder anticipates another 20 non-aligned members to be appointed in the coming months by Trudeau, with 17 current vacancies to be filled and another three seats which will open due to retirements by the fall.

Peter Harder on representing the government in the Senate

Power and Politics

5 years ago
Senate appointee Peter Hander discusses his role as government representative and how he will balance that with the goal of a non-partisan Senate. 8:01