Canada's new Senate nomination process stinks – And Here's Why

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embarked on his plan for “Independent Senators” there were high hopes across the country.  However, it is apparent that the Prime Minister’s plan has become a substantive failure.  Prime Minister Trudeau did manage to break the nomination of new Senators away from traditional partisanship along traditional political party lines.  But Mr Trudeau has unfortunately managed to devise a Senate nomination process that is producing Senators even less “independent-minded” from the Office of the Prime Minister than the ones before.  The voting record of the new Senators who align themselves with the Office of Prime Minister even more so than the Senators from the former “partisan” process speaks for itself. 

You might be tempted to ask, what are the flaws in the current nomination process which has managed to produce even less independent minded Senators than the ones before?

If so, I will not disappoint you.  Here’s why the current nomination process to become a Canadian senator really stinks.

Although freed from political party partisan politics, the Office of the Prime Minister has retained autocratic control on who becomes a Senator.  In the previous process, Senators were being appointed “near the end of their political life” and didn’t feel obligated to support the Office of the Prime Minister even though they were appointed by the Prime Minister.  The Senators who ended-up getting picked by the Prime Minister before Trudeau’s initiative basically felt like “they deserved it”. 

By contrast, Trudeau’s new Senate 'picks' have only Mr. Trudeau to thank for a meteoric rise to political power and understandably feel obligated to support everything he does.  Prime Minister has managed to create a “new Senate” freed of partisan political party politics, but far less independent than it has even been.

If I were Prime Minister, I too would seek to rejuvenate the Senate, but not in this fake way embarked by the Office of the Prime Minister.

Office of Prime Minister should have no control over Senate nomination process – Constitutionally, the Senate is independent from the House of Commons where the Prime Minister sits as the “Leader of the Government”.   In order to affirm the constitutional integrity of the Senate, the Office of the Prime Minister should have absolutely no control in the selection process.

In the current process, the “picking” of Senators has absolutely no transparency and is entirely shrouded in “Old Boys” network back room secrecy away from the “prying eyes” of Canadians which in no way affirms democracy.

If I were Prime Minister,
I would delegate the Senate to appoint volunteer-based regional committees of Canadians with no partisan affiliations to screen applicants seeking to become Senators.  These volunteers would represent Canadians from all walks of life including the poor and cultural diversities.

The volunteers would then nominate a selection of the top 20 from their pool of applicants who would then be required to make a short, televised speech to Canadians on why they want to become a Senator which would be broadcasted over CPAC-TV and the internet.  Canadians would then be invited to submit comments as to their preference of Senate candidates.

The regional committees would then be provided with the task to review these comments with the possible supplementary input of Senate administrative staff and then send their list to the Governor General who would then confirm the new Senators

The current Senate nomination process is not only elite-driven in how the Prime Minister selects new Senators in complete secrecy but also in the screening process for applicants.  The screening process is in now way designed for “ordinary Canadians” to apply.  If you’re not a lawyer who can understand the constitutionally complex questions presented in the application process or can link your application to being a former President or Director of some organization with referees from these “top-level organizations” backing you up, don’t bother applying – Just look at who the PM has already picked – all “cultural elites”

Constitutionally, the Prime Minister should not be in any way involved in the Senate nomination process if he genuinely seeks to rejuvenate the Senator through truly independent Senators.  The Senate nomination process should be transparent and not shrouded in secrecy.  Furthermore, the application procedure needs to be fixed to support social inclusion and not the promotion of “cultural elites”.