Role of Independent Senators

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Landscape, Yukon Territory

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Honourable senators, I want to say a few words about what it means to be an independent senator. I find a lot of Canadians are very interested in this important new reform of the Senate, which began in 2015, and I am often asked about what it means to be an independent senator. This is how I respond:

First, here are some interesting results: 83% of senators are now independent. Prior to this reform, the Senate amended, on average, one or two bills a year. Today, we amend some 40% to 50% of the bills, and, importantly, more than two thirds of those are accepted by the elected House of Commons. I am proud to be a part of a modern, less partisan Senate that is moving away from the old style of partisan blood sport and is really focused on the original intent of the Senate, namely, to provide sober second thought on legislation. Today, more than ever, Canadians want less partisanship and more cooperation.

How do I conduct myself as an independent? The most important thing is that I decide how to vote on each issue on my own in the best interests of Canadians, as I see it, given what I hear and read, my values and my general view of the world. I dedicate my time and resources to the work of the Senate. I make a point of engaging with all levels of government, business, labour, academia, not-for-profit organizations, experts and interested Canadians.

Now, here are some rules I follow: I am not a member of a political party. I do not caucus with any political party in the House of Commons, although I work with members of all parties, as needed. I do not raise funds for any party. I do not use clips from the Senate or otherwise for the purpose of fundraising for any political party. I do not help raise funds off what I do in the Senate.

I remind people that I do not participate in developing strategy for any party or election or leadership campaigns of any party or in political parties at the riding level. I do not engage in outreach for any political party. I also point out that I do not speed up or delay bills or otherwise take advantage of house rules for political partisan advantage. No party hands me speeches to deliver, and no party tells me what to say or not to say. In short, Your Honour, I tell Canadians that I am an independent senator.

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