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Senator Ringuette proposes comprehensive transformation of the Senate to reduce partisanship and promote regional representation

For Immediate Release

 

March 25th , 2014

 

 

Senator Ringuette proposes comprehensive transformation of the Senate to reduce partisanship and promote regional representation

 

 

Today, Senator Pierrette Ringuette gave notice on a motion to start the process of transforming the Senate of Canada.

 

The motion will create and authorize a senate committee to study and recommend changes to the Senate to;

 

·         help reduce partisanship and increase the role of regional representation by realigning the Senate along regional rather than partisan caucuses,

·         allow the senators greater participation in Senate’s agenda, including nominating speakers and establishing the process for dealing with government legislation,

·         increase the accountability of Senators to citizens in their region.

In addition, Senator Ringuette tabled a more detailed proposal of changes to Senate rules for the committee to study.

 

These are the most comprehensive changes to the process and culture of the Senate that can be made without changing the Constitution or any legislation.

 

The Senate was created with specific purposes in mind, it was to be a chamber of sober second thought, a chamber that eschewed partisan politics and protect the minority voice, and balance the needs and representation of the regions against the popularly elected House of Commons.

 

The Senate has moved away from its founding principles; the grip of party leaders and partisanship on the Senate has grown year after year. It is time for the Senate to take responsibility and act to transform the Senate accordingly.

 

The Senator will speak in support of her motion Thursday, March 27th.

 

Please find attached the text of the motion and the detailed proposal.

 

For more information:

 

Tim Rosenburgh

Office of Senator Pierrette Ringuette

rosent@sen.parl.gc.ca

(613) 943-2248

 

 

MOTION

 

That a Special Committee on Senate Transformation be appointed to consider;

 

1.      methods to reduce the role of political parties in the Senate by establishing  regional caucuses and systems to provide accountability to citizens;

 

 

2.      methods to broaden participation of all senators in managing the business of the Senate by establishing a committee to assume those responsibilities, and to provide for equal regional representation on said committee;

 

3.      methods to allow senators to participate in the selection of the Speaker of the Senate by providing a recommendation to the Prime Minister;

 

4.      methods to adapt Question Period to better serve its role as an accountability exercise; and

 

 

5.      such other matters as may be referred to it by the Senate;

 

That the committee be composed of nine members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection and that four members constitute a quorum;

 

That, the committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; to examine witnesses; and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;

 

 

That, notwithstanding rule 12-18(2)(b)(i), the committee have power to sit from Monday to Friday, even though the Senate may then be adjourned for a period exceeding one week; and

 

That the committee be empowered to report from time to time and to submit its final report no later than June 30, 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposal to Transform the Senate of Canada

 

Summary

This transformation proposal would replace certain rules to establish a non-partisan oriented Senate.

The proposal will do the following;

  • Removes the partisan roles of government and opposition leader, deputy leader, and whip.
  • Sets up 4 regional caucuses; Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western (territories are included in Western Caucus) and accountability to citizens.
  • Establish a method for the nominating of Speaker and Speaker Pro-Tempore by Senators.
  • Establishes an Upper House Affairs Committee, its role includes;
    • Fulfilling the requirements of the government and opposition leaders in terms of legislative process.
    • Populating the committees.
    • Setting time allocation.
    • Coordinating Upper House activities.
  • Revises question period to focus on committee chairs reporting and responding to questions regarding committee activities.
  • Sets a more rigid procedural structure that will allow for less delay in dealing with bills.
  • Establishes rules for removal of committee chairs and caucus leaders.
  • Committees shall include equal representation from all regions.
  • Allows for minority opinions to be included in committee reports.
  • Allow for video broadcast of Senate proceedings.

 

Proposal

 

In respect for the Canadian Constitution, the importance of the upper house in achieving the Federal pact of equality among the regional divisions of this nation, and to transform the upper house as an independent and effective second body, meeting the expectations of Canadian citizens.

These changes are proposed;

Chapter Three: Sittings of the Senate

3-1.(3) add:

3-6.(1) The seating in the chamber shall be grouped by regional caucus and shall move counter-clockwise, from speaker’s left side, in this order; Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Western.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: This rule sets the sitting arrangement in the chamber, counter- clockwise from the speaker’s left side in order from Atlantic to Western.

3-6. (2) remove and replace with;

3-6. (2) Whenever the Senate stands adjourned, if the Speaker is satisfied that the public interest does not require the Senate to meet at the date and time stipulated in the adjournment order, the Speaker shall, after consulting the Leaders of the Regional Caucuses, determine an appropriate later date or time for the next sitting.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Changes authority from Leader of government/opposition to the regional caucus leaders.

 

Chapter Four: Order of Business

4-2. (8)(a) remove and replace with;

4-2. (8)(a) At the request of a Leader of a Regional Caucus, the Speaker shall, at an appropriate time during Senators’ Statements, seek leave of the Senate to extend Statements. If leave is granted, Senators’ Statements shall be extended by no more than 30 minutes.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Changes authority from Leader of government/opposition to the regional caucus leaders.

 

4-3.(1) remove and replace with;

4-3. (1) At the request of a Leader of a Regional Caucus, the period for Senators’ Statements shall be extended by no more than 15 minutes for the purpose of paying tribute to a current or former Senator.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Changes authority from Leader of government/opposition to the regional caucus leaders.

 

4-7 and 4-8 remove and replace with;

4-7 On any Tuesday when the senate is sitting, Question period shall be held and begin no later than 30 minutes after the speaker calls the first item of the Routine Proceedings and last no longer than 90 minutes.

EXCEPTION

Rule 4-6(2): Dilatory and procedural motions during Routine Proceedings.

 

4-8 During question period, the Speaker shall call on the Chair or Deputy Chair of each Senate Standing Committee to stand and for no longer than 5 minutes. During this time the Chair or Deputy Chair shall report on the activities of the committee during the previous sitting week for no longer than 3 minutes, during the remaining time, any Senator may, without notice, ask the committee Chair or Deputy Chair a question on a matter relating to the activities of the committee.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Revises question period, as there will no longer be representatives of the government to address questions to. The new question period allows for committee chairs to report and for Senators to ask questions regarding committee activities.

 

4-13. (3) remove and replace with;

4-13. (3) Government Business shall be called in such sequence as the Upper House Affairs Committee shall determine and moved through the Chair or Deputy Chair of the committee.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Changes authority from Leader of government to Upper House Affairs committee.

 

4-15.(2) remove and replace with;

4-15. (2) Except as otherwise ordered by the Senate, any item of Other Business on the Order Paper and any motion or inquiry on the Notice Paper that have not been proceeded with during 9 sitting days shall proceed to vote on the 10th sitting day.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Reduces number of sittings days that a bill can sit idle on the order paper and will proceed automatically to vote once the time is exhausted, instead of it dropping off the paper.

 

Chapter Five: Notices, Motions and Inquiries

5-14 add;

5-14 Rules 5-1 to 5-13 may be superseded in the event of a Senate Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs report, and Senate approval thereof, defining an alternative timeline.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: This rule is to allow for the Upper House Affairs Committee to propose alternative timelines for proceeding with legislation.

 

Chapter Six: Rules of Debate

6-3. (1) (a) and (b) remove;

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Removes extended speaking times.

 

6-5. (1) (b) remove;

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Removes reference to government leader, etc.

 

Chapter Seven: Time Allocation

7-1 to 7-4 remove;

EXPLANATORY NOTE: This has been removed; matters concerning time allocation will be debated by the Upper House Affairs Committee and reported to the chamber for approval.

 

Chapter Nine: Voting

9-5 remove and replace with;

9-5. Except as otherwise provided, the bells shall be sounded for 60 minutes.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Standard practice for bells will be 60 minutes.

 

9-10 remove and replace with:

9-10 All votes differed to the following sitting day at 5:30pm.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Standard practice to always differ votes to the following day.

 

 

Chapter Ten: Public Bills

10-11. (2) remove and replace with:

10-11. (2) Notice of motion for such referral may be given by any Senator at the appropriate time during Routine Proceedings.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: removes reference to government leader and deputy leader.

 

Chapter Twelve Committees

12-1 to 12-2 remove and replace by:

12-1.(1) At the beginning of each session, on the second sitting day, the Senate shall vote for candidates for the Speaker and the Speaker Pro-Tempore for the duration of the session.

12-1.(2) Any Senator can nominate, at the beginning of the second sitting day, a Senator for either the position of Speaker or Speaker Pro-Tempore. The Clerk of the Senate shall move to a secret ballot vote at the end of the nominations.

12-1.(3) Upon conclusion of the election, the Clerk of the Senate shall advise the Prime Minister of the results of the election.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Process for electing speaker.

 

12-2. (1)(a) Following the election and appointment of the Speaker and Speaker Pro-Tempore, Senators shall meet as regional Caucuses reflecting the four (4) divisions as per article22 of the Constitution Act of Canada.

12-2. (1)(b) The regional caucuses shall established as the following;

(i)               The Atlantic Caucus shall be comprised of the senators from Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

(ii)            The Québec Caucus shall be comprised of the senators from Quebec.

(iii)          The Ontario Caucus shall be comprised of the senators from Ontario.

(iv)          The Western Caucus shall be comprised of the senators from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.

12-2. (2)(a) The Clerk of the Senate or his/her representative shall attend the first session sitting of each Regional Caucuses  and preside over the election for a Leader, Deputy leader and Secretary Treasurer of each Caucus. 

12-2.(2)(b) : At any time, 15 members of a regional Caucus may request in writing to the Clerk of the Senate to call for the election of the new Chair , Vice-Chair, or new Secretary Treasurer of a Regional Caucus. Elections must be held within 5 sitting days.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Setting up regional caucuses and procedure for electing and removing leaderhip.

 

12-2.(3)(a) On the third day, The Senate Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs shall meet, comprised on the leader and deputy leader of each regional caucus.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Creation of the Upper House Affairs Committee. The regional caucus leaders and deputy leaders will comprise the committee.

 

12-2.(3)(b) The senate Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs shall appoint at least 2 Senators from each regional Caucus to sit as members of the other Standing Senate Committees.

12-2. (3)(c) On the fourth Sitting day, the Senate standing Committee on Upper House Affairs shall report to the House, its appointment report.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Upper House Affairs Committee replaces selection committee for the purposes for populating the committees.

 

12-2.(4)(a) The Speaker shall request that no later than the  sixth sitting day, the members of the Standing Senate Committees meet to elect a Chair and Vice-Chair. Each member shall be allowed to participate in all deliberation and organizational meetings of their respective Standing Committees.

12-2.(4)(b) At any time, 5 members of a Standing Committee may request in writing to the Clerk of the Senate to call the election of a new Chair and/or a new Vice-Chair of a Committee. The election must be held within 5 sitting days.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Procedure for election and removal of committee chairs and vice-chair.

 

12- 3 (1) to 12-3 (3) remove and replace with:

12-3 All committees, with the exception of the Senate Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs, shall be comprised on 9 members, 2 from each regional caucus and 1 additional member.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Committees will be comprised of 2 members from each of the regional caucuses, plus 1 additional member to be determined by the Upper House Affairs Committee.

 

12-4 remove and replace with;

12-4. The number of Senators appointed to the following standing joint committees shall be recommended by the Senate Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs:

(a) the Standing Joint Committee on the Library of Parliament; and

(b) the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.

REFERENCES

Parliament of Canada Act, sections 74 and 78

Statutory Instruments Act, sections 19 and 19.1

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Upper House Affairs Committee replaces selection committee for the purposes for populating the committees.

 

12.5. remove and replace with:

12.5 Changes to a membership of a committee may be made to notice filed with the Clerk by the Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Upper House Affairs Committee will be in charge of facilitating committee membership changes and ensuring proper regional caucus representation.

 

12-7(1)(c) add;

 12.7.(1)(c) To redistribute equitably any remuneration and budget allocation related to the roles and office of the Government Leader, Government Deputy Leader, Government Whip, Opposition Leader, Opposition Deputy Leader and Opposition Whip to the 4 Regional Caucus Chairs, the Vice-Chairs and Secretary/Treasurer.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Adds requirements for the Internal Economy Committee to redistribute the budgets for government and opposition positions to the regional caucuses. A temporary role until the necessary legislative changes are in place.

 

12.7. (17) add;

12.7.(17) The Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs, which shall be authorized:

(a) To appoint the Regional Caucus members to Standing Senate Committee and report.

(b)  To meet and negotiate with Government to establish the Government Legislative agenda. Government bills shall not move to second reading in the Senate until the Government has tabled in the Senate the social/economic impact study for each of the 4 regional divisions in the Senate.

(c) To assign, after first reading of a Government Bill;

(i) which Senate Standing Committee shall study said bill after second reading.

(ii) the mover of said bill. The mover shall be a member of the Senate Standing Committee which shall study the bill.

(d) To debate and assign time allocation for any bill before the Senate and report to the Senate. This report shall be voted on immediately upon tabling with 15 minute bells.

(e) To propose to the Senate any rule that may be requested to clarify and enhance efficiencies in Senate operations

(f) To host with all Regional Caucus members distinct regional accountability session in the Fall and Spring of each year. The sessions shall be held on a Saturday to allow for participation and there shall be a public notification 14 days prior to the session. The Chair and Vice-Chair of each regional Caucus shall table in the Senate a session report within 15 days of the Session.

(g) Establish proper public consultation process to review and report to the Senate no later than 5 years after the implementation of these changes on the public assessment of the Senate Transformation. 

(h) Call a meeting of each Regional Caucus on Wednesdays from 9 to 12AM when the Senate is sitting and at any other moment with 1 week notice.

(i) To assign Senate seating as per rule 3-6(2).

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Establishes the Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs, the committee that will be in charge of the general affairs of the chamber. In particular;

1.       Populating the committees.

2.       Perform the legislative functions of the former government leader in terms of legislative processes.

3.       Facilitate regional caucus meetings and public sessions.

4.       Facilitate consultation process to review the Senate transformation process

 

12.8. (2) remove and replace with;

12-8. (2) When the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs tables a user fee proposal, it is deemed referred to the standing or special committee designated by the Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs.

REFERENCE                       

User Fees Act, subsection 4(4)

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Transfers role to Upper House Affairs committee.

12.11. remove.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Rule no longer needed, committee membership rules established prior.

12.13. remove.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Rule no longer needed, committee chair election established prior.

12-18. (2)(b)(ii) remove and replace with;

12-18 (2) (ii) with the signed consent of the Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs, in response to a written request from the chair and deputy chair.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Transfers role to Upper House Affairs committee.

12-22. (1) remove and replace with;

12-22. (1) A report of a Senate committee shall contain the conclusions agreed to by majority, unless it is requested by a member of the committee to include a minority opinion.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Adds ability for a minority opinion to be included in committee reports.

12-24. (2) remove and replace with;

12-24. (2) When the Senate requests a Government response, the Clerk shall communicate the request and send a copy of the report to the Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs and to each minister expressly identified in the request.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Transfers role to Upper House Affairs committee.

 

12-24. (3) remove and replace with;

12-24. (3) A member of the Standing Committee on Upper House Affairs shall table the Government’s response no later than 150 calendar days after the request was adopted, or provide an explanation why the response has not been provided.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Transfers role to Upper House Affairs committee.

12-27. (1) remove.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Rule no longer needed, committee membership rules established prior.

Chapter 14: Documents, Journals and Broadcasting

14-7(1) remove and replace with;

14-7(1) Public proceedings in the Senate may be recorded and broadcast, but only through the use of audio and video facilities that are installed for that purpose in the Senate Chamber, subject to such arrangements with the Clerk as may be necessary.

EXPLANATORY NOTE: Adds ability to broadcast video of senate proceedings.