Should the Recent Scandals in the Canadian Senate be a Catalyst for Reform of the Upper Chamber?


June 6, 2013 :: Daniel Hays
Moderated by Knud Petersen

The Parliament of Canada has two houses, the elected lower house (the House of Commons) and the appointed upper house (the Senate). Both houses are involved in the passing of legislation. Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister, said the Senate was to be a place of "sober second thought" so that legislation would receive proper and careful consideration before finally becoming law. Has excessive partisanship eroded the “sober second thought” of the Senate?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has appointed 58 Senators since taking office in 2006, despite his stated intention to either transform the Senate into an elected body or abolish it altogether. The Harper Government is presently seeking clarification from the Supreme Court on its powers to change the Senate. Will the recent scandals involving Harper appointees change that strategy?

The speaker will voice his opinion related to those questions and also argue that the current appointment process is not in step with the preference Canadians consistently express as polls show a more democratic process for the Senate is preferable. As well, pending a more comprehensive reform, new procedures could have been established to create an independent and less partisan Senate appointment commission.

Speaker: The Honourable Daniel P. Hays

Dan Hays has been with Norton Rose Fulbright in their Calgary office (previously Macleod Dixon LLP) since his call to the bar and has practised in different areas, most recently in international and corporate operations. Mr. Hays was appointed to the Senate of Canada by Prime Minister Trudeau in 1984. Following retirement from the Senate on June 30, 2007, he was appointed Chair of Macleod Dixon LLP.

During his years of service in the Senate, Mr. Hays held a number of leadership positions and at different times served as chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, the Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources and the Special Committee on Senate Reform 2006. As well, he served as President of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1994-98.

In 1999 he was appointed Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate, and in 2001, Prime Minister Chrétien appointed him Speaker of the Senate, a position he continued to hold under Prime Minister Martin. Following the 2006 federal general election, he was appointed Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. On January 22, 2007, he was made a Privy Councillor by Prime Minister Harper.


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