The House

Marijuana legislation vote shows shift in Senate dynamic

Senator Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, says the growing number of Independent senators provides a new dynamic when debating bills like the pot legalization bill.
The Senate voted on the second reading of Bill C-45, the government's marijuana legalization legislation, on Thursday. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)
Listen9:13

Senator Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, says the growing number of Independent senators provides a new dynamic when debating bills like the government's proposed pot legalization bill.

Bill C-45 passed second reading in the Senate on Thursday with senators voting 44 to 29 in favour of the bill, after speculation the results would be close.

All 28 Conservative senators present voted against the bill, while most of the Independent senators sided with the government.

The bill will move forward, despite some senators calling for substantial amendments.

It's all part of the new dynamic in the red chamber, Harder told The House, as more senators sit as independents.

"It's a bit like running a minority government in the Senate," he said.

More amendments are being made to bills, which Harder attributed to those Independent senators.

"That's the nature of a more independent, less partisan Senate."

Though it can provide some uncertainty, Harder said it helps strike a balance.

"We are neither a rubber stamp, nor are we a political rival to the House of Commons."

And when it comes to dissenters on the marijuana bill - or any bill - he said the Senate's job is not to kill legislation, but to advance it carefully and make recommendations along the way.

"That is, I would argue, a more responsibly way to approach a Senate role."

The government's representative in the Senate, Peter Harder, discusses what happened this week with the marijuana legalization bill. 9:13