How do you solve a problem like the Senate?

by Aaron Wherry

Sean Kilpatrick/CP Images

The Canadian Press finds that the Senate is not quite an exemplar of openness and transparency.

The reporter for weekly newspaper L’Etoile was told that he would have to physically come to Ottawa to look through the Senate attendance register, fat red binders with forms filed monthly by each senator … Another public registry, detailing the financial and business interests of senators, has only been available four hours per weekday at the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer in Ottawa. The Senate voted in May to make the registry public, but the office said the transition won’t be complete until 2013.

Unlike the House of Commons, Senate proceedings are still not televised, and there is no way to easily search Senate votes or daily debates using an online database.

Paul Adams suggests moving the Senate to Winnipeg.




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How do you solve a problem like the Senate?

  1. There [i]is[/i] an index to the Senate debates by topic, but it’s only available internally in the Library of Parliament whereas the House index is online. Given that Senate hansard is itself online and searchable, though, the added value of such a tool is somewhat dubious.
    The availability of the Senate attendance register hasn’t stopped stories relating to Senators attendance from regularly being published. In my experience a call to the Clerk’s office is all that’s required to get details of a Senator’s attendance. If you want to know how many times a Senator was physically in the Senate and not excused on other business (which counts as attendance) you still have to look at the journals for each day. If you want to know which Senators were actually in the chamber when it was sitting and which ones just showed up for a minute or two to get their attendance checked off by the clerk, you have to sit in the gallery.

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