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Modernization to make Senate more open, more inclusive, more effective

Modernization to make Senate more open, more inclusive, more effective

Modernization to make Senate more open, more inclusive, more effective

Published on 4 October 2016 News & Photos by Senator Serge Joyal (retired)

Ottawa, October 4, 2016 – Senate proceedings should be televised and all senators should have the opportunity to participate fully in the Senate’s work, the Special Senate Committee on Modernization said in a report released Tuesday.

The report, Senate Modernization: Moving Forward Part I, makes recommendations to change some aspects of how the Senate operates so as to strengthen the institution’s ability to play its vital roles as a voice for minorities and regions, a determined investigator and Parliament’s provider of sober second thought.

These recommendations will also help to show Canadians the value of the Senate.

The committee’s recommendation to allow the broadcasting of Senate proceedings would demonstrate the high quality of debate that is the hallmark of the Red Chamber. Senators are independent thinkers who argue from evidence, not from talking points — their debates are a model for how parliamentarians should behave.

Another recommendation addresses the increase in the number of independent senators who are not members of a political caucus. Expanding the definition of caucus to include groups of nine or more senators formed for a parliamentary purpose would give more senators access to Senate resources and encourage a greater diversity of senators on committees.

The committee is also recommending senators examine ways to divide any omnibus legislation passed in the House of Commons. Omnibus bills are unwieldy assemblies of different pieces of legislation that obstruct senators from giving them proper scrutiny. The committee believes Canadians need to know what is being done in their name.

All senators will be able to vote on the committee’s recommendations.

The committee has a mandate to make the Senate more effective within the current constitutional framework; members are continuing their study and will make additional recommendations in the future.

Quick Facts

  • The report contains 21 recommendations to modernize the Senate.
  • Other recommendations include changing how the Speaker of the Senate is selected. The committee proposes senators choose up to five of their colleagues as nominees for consideration by the Prime Minister to recommend to the Governor General for appointment.
  • The modernization committee was established in December 2015 in order to bolster the Senate’s strengths.


“Modernizing the Senate has been a difficult but rewarding task. Much work still remains. But we believe the recommendations we have made will make the Senate even more inclusive and productive, allowing us to live up to the responsibilities the Fathers of Confederation placed upon the Senate — and to the great expectations Canadians have for their parliamentarians.”

– Senator Thomas Johnson McInnis, Chair of the committee

“In the debate over physician-assisted dying, Canadians began once more to see the power and the value of the Senate. We forced the government to listen to our concerns and to the concerns of the public, and we were able to make important changes to the bill. I believe Canadians should see this side of the Senate more often; our recommendations will make that possible.”

– Senator Serge Joyal, Deputy Chair of the committee

“Our recommendations acknowledge the principles of equality for all senators as well as proportionality. They will help every senator participate fully in the important work of the Senate. This report will strengthen our collective efforts to serve Canadians, both in the Chamber and committees, and in our roles as parliamentary diplomats and public advocates.”

– Senator Elaine McCoy, member of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure

Associated Links

Click to read a copy of the report, Senate Modernization: Moving Forward Part I.

The Senate of Canada is on Twitter @SenateCA. Follow the committee using the hashtag #MDRN.


For more information, please contact:

Sonia Noreau
Media Relations Coordinator
Senate of Canada