Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Using the Senate in Your Lobbying

One of the great ways to cover all your government relations 'bases' is considering the Senate. With a current minority parliament in place, not every piece of legislation passed in the House of Commons is guaranteed the safe passage it may have had in the past.

With pressure coming from the Prime Minister to reform the Upper Chamber and limit the stays of the Senior House, some senators are saying that the reforms may make the institution more powerful.

Here's an exert from a recent article in the Hill Times:

The Hill Times, June 5th, 2006
By Simon Doyle

Harper could create 'the most powerful Senate in the world': Joyal

PM Stephen Harper hopes to see Senatorial ballots in the next election, but Senators warn they'd be far more powerful than the MPs.
In a week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he hopes to move ahead quickly with Senatorial elections, Senators warn that the plan would overturn the Red Chamber's delicate balance with the House of Commons, creating a radically different Upper Chamber that would be partisan, more powerful than the House of Commons and over-represented by central Canada.

"We would be the most powerful Senate, probably, in the world," Liberal Quebec Sen. Serge Joyal told The Hill Times in an interview. "You have to see the overall operation of the institution and its full powers before you say, 'Oh, we'll just elect the Senators and it's going to function smoothly. As I mention to you, it's the law of unintended consequences. You do something that may seem small but you trigger a whole chain reaction in the system."

Last week, Prime Minister Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) made a first step toward Senate reform, introducing a bill in the Senate to limit Senators' terms to eight years. Senators are currently appointed by the Prime Minister and serve until age 75.

Mr. Harper's move toward reform follows on the Conservatives' 2006 election platform, which promised to create a process by which the Prime Minister would appoint Senators elected in the provinces or territories. The campaign platform also promised to "propose further reforms to make the Senate an effective, independent, and democratically elected body" that equitably represents all regions of Canada.

But after the government tabled its bill for eight-year Senate terms, critics quickly pointed out that Mr. Harper was holding back on the comprehensive Senate reform promised in the campaign, but in an interview last week with CTV, Mr. Harper committed to moving ahead with the 'consultative' Senatorial elections as early as the next federal election...


Mark Buzan is the owner of Action Strategies, a public affairs & marketing communications consultancy. You can subscribe now to his monthly public affairs newsletter by visiting www.action-strategies.ca and dropping down the newsletter menu.

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