Ministerial Question Period: Senate Vacancies

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Parliament, Ottawa

Hon. Jane Cordy: Thank you, minister, for being with us today. My question is a follow-up to that of Senator Cormier’s. Minister, the founding principle of Confederation was based on proper representation for all regions in government. Representation by population in the House of Commons was balanced by regional representation in the Senate of Canada. In fact, minister, historians have said that without regional representation in the Senate, Confederation would not have occurred in 1867. Unfortunately, we have seen those principles being increasingly ignored over the last six years. We now have a Senate with 16 empty seats, with two more in the next few weeks.

I’m going to ask you today about the Atlantic region. Minister, three Senate seats in New Brunswick are vacant, which means 30% of New Brunswick’s seats are vacant. Three seats are empty in Nova Scotia, which means a 30% vacancy in Nova Scotia. Prince Edward Island is missing 50% of their representation, two out of four. And one third of Newfoundland and Labrador’s seats will be vacant within the next few weeks. That means that one in every three Atlantic seats in the Senate will be vacant, some for more than three years.

Minister, when will the Prime Minister restore regional representation in the Senate and fill those vacant seats? This would not be acceptable in the House of Commons, and it should not be acceptable in the Senate.

Hon. Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., M.P., Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities: Senator Cordy, thank you for the question and your understandable and reasonable concern around those vacancies. As an Atlantic Canadian, I share your view of the importance of our region, but it’s true of other regions. I totally share your analysis of the terms of Confederation and the role that this chamber plays in balancing out an increasing trend in the House in which I sit for the populous provinces and regions. This is an example, senator, where we need to move expeditiously.

As I say, I am confident that in the coming weeks, maybe in the coming days, you will have the good news of some exciting colleagues that will join you here. In conversations that I have had, I’m enthusiastic about the quality of women and men who want to serve with all of you in the Senate who apply through a transparent application process that many of you went through yourselves. My understanding from the officials at the Privy Council Office that run this process is that we’re victims of our own success in some cases, Senator Cordy. In my province, there were dozens and dozens of very qualified people that came forward asking for an opportunity to serve.

We have been slower than we should have been, and need to be, to properly receive the advice of these advisory groups, but the good news is that I think we’re getting near the end of that process, and good news is coming very quickly.

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