OTTAWA – The federal government has tapped eminent Canadians from academe, the civil service, medicine, law, arts and sports to advise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on merit-based appointments to the maligned Senate.
The independent advisory board on Senate appointments will be chaired by Huguette Labelle, a former deputy minister in various federal departments and former chancellor of the University of Ottawa.
She’ll be joined by two other permanent members: McGill University dean of law Daniel Jutras and former University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera.
The board is to recommend a short list of five nominees for each vacancy in the upper house, of which there are currently 22.
The government has also named two ad hoc members from each of the three provinces — Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba — whose vacant Senate seats are to be filled first.
Trudeau intends to name a government leader in the Senate from among the first five appointees, whom the government hopes to have in place by the end of February.
Ontario’s ad hoc members are former provincial senior public servant Murray Segal and Dawn Lavell Harvard, president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada; Quebec’s are Yves Lamontagne, president of the province’s college of physicians, and one-time Olympic diving gold medallist Sylvie Bernier; Manitoba’s are singer-songwriter Heather Bishop and Susan Lewis, former president of the United Way of Winnipeg.
Provincial governments were invited to recommend names to fill the ad hoc positions but while Ontario and Quebec participated, insiders say Manitoba’s NDP government, which supports abolition of the Senate, did not.
The advisory board is the first step towards delivering on Trudeau’s promise to return the scandal-plagued Senate to its intended role as an independent chamber of sober second thought.
Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef said the calibre of people named to the advisory board is indicative the kind of people Trudeau wants to populate the Senate.
“I believe we’re on the right track in ensuring that … senators are there because of merit and that they will help tone down the partisanship that has hampered the effectiveness of the Senate in the recent past,” she said following a cabinet retreat in St. Andrews, N.B.