Canadians can now apply to join the Senate

With new changes announced by the Liberal government, Canadians are now able to apply directly to fill vacancies in the Senate.

Liberal government announces next steps in filling Red Chamber vacancies

Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef announced changes to the Senate appointment process on Thursday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canadians can now submit their names for possible nomination to the Senate, with new changes announced by the Liberal government on Thursday.

Under an interim process announced by the Liberals in December, potential senators had to be nominated by a community organization. But Canadians are now able to apply directly to fill vacancies in the Senate.

In a statement, Maryam Monsef, the minister of democratic institutions, said opening the application process to all Canadians is "an important innovation that not only better involves Canadians in our parliamentary democracy, but also enhances transparency." 

In addition, the Liberal government announced the names of eight new members of the independent advisory board that submits a short list of candidates to the prime minister for consideration. The new members — two each from the provinces of British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island — include:

  • Anne Giardini, chancellor of Simon Fraser University.
  • Vikram Vij, chef and entrepreneur.
  • Roxanne Tarjan, former executive director of the Nurses Association of New Brunswick.
  • Donald J. Savoie, scholar of public policy and public administration.
  • Jennifer Gillivan,  president and CEO of the IWK Health Centre Foundation in Nova Scotia.
  • Dr. Ramona Lumpkin, president and vice-chancellor of Mount Saint Vincent University.
  • Chief Brian Francis of the Abegweit First Nation in Prince Edward Island.
  • Jeannette Arsenault, entrepreneur and business owner.

Those eight will join the board members already named for Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec and at the federal level.

There are currently 19 vacancies in the Senate and an additional vacancy will be created in August when Michel Rivard of Quebec reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75.

The deadline for applying to fill those vacancies is Aug. 4.

Requirements for becoming a senator

By order of the Constitution, potential applicants must be over the age of 30 and must have $4,000 worth of property in the jurisdiction they wish to represent (or be willing to purchase that amount of property before their appointment).

Within the application form, individuals are told that they must possess certain "knowledge, personal qualities and qualifications related to the role of the Senate" and space is provided to explain (to a maximum of 1,000 words) how the applicant meets those standards.

Applicants are asked whether they have been convicted of a criminal offence for which they have not been granted a pardon and whether they are or have been involved in any activity or conduct "which would conflict with, or could reasonably be perceived as being in conflict with, the principles and standards expected in public life and which, if disclosed publicly, would negatively impact the non-partisan and merit-based perception of your appointment to the Senate or the reputation of the Senate as a public institution."

Prospective senators must also provide a curriculum vitae and three letters of reference.

During last year's federal campaign, the Liberals promised to implement a new non-partisan process for appointing senators. The first seven of those appointments were made earlier this year.