What’s wrong with the Senate?

We’re taking it back to Grade 9 civics class by giving you an update on the Senate.  

Driving the news: Since November 2021, an average of 25 senators have been absent for each legislative vote in the Canadian Senate, per a new analysis by The Globe and Mail.

Senators are technically docked $250 for every no-show, but considering they’re bringing in $164,500 a year and can simply claim sick days or be excused for “official Senate business,” it’s kinda like threatening an angry NBA player with a $30,000 fine.

Why it matters: The fact that roughly a quarter of senators are out there reenacting Ferris Bueller’s Day Off instead of showing up to vote on matters that impact people across the nation raises the concern that our legislative processes aren’t functioning as they should be.

Zoom out: Concerns about a broken Senate are old hat, with the historical argument being that it’s an expensive redundancy that rubberstamps whatever bills come its way. 

  • Unlike MPs, senators are appointed (by the governor general, on the advice of the Prime Minister) instead of democratically elected. There are also no term limits, making Senators basically impossible to remove until they’re forced to retire at 75. 

Yes, but: Since 2015, the feds have tried to reform the Senate, making it more independent, less partisan, and less likely to simply side with the government that appointed them. 

The National Post found Senators appointed by the current government have voted against the ruling party slightly more than Liberal-appointed predecessors, so perhaps progress is being made. 

That’s if they show up to vote, of course.