Let’s argue heatedly about Part X of the Rules of the Senate of Canada!

by Paul Wells

Here you go. I see the government’s court blogger is making an unaccustomed venture into arguments of constitutional law, asserting — unbidden by anyone at Langevin I’m sure (UPDATE: Stephen Taylor has sent me a good-natured note assuring me that his analysis is his alone; I’m happy to take him at his word) — that Prime Minister Harper has to prorogue if the promised Senate majority of bold Conservative stalwarts is to take the upper hand on committees against the old Senate majority of wheezy Liberal patronage hacks. And I must say, on the face of it there seems to be a case for this. Highlights from Part X (emphasis mine):

Committee of Selection 85. (1) At the commencement of each session, a Committee of Selection consisting of nine Senators shall be appointed whose duties shall be to nominate:

(a) a Senator to preside as Speaker pro tempore; and

(b) the Senators to serve on the several select committees, except the Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators.

Separate report (2) The Committee of Selection shall, within the first five sitting days of each session, present a separate report to the Senate in respect of its nomination of a Senator to preside as Speaker pro tempore pursuant to paragraph (1)(a) above.
Report by the Leader of the Government (2.1) The Leader of the Government shall present a motion, seconded by the Leader of the Opposition, to the Senate on the membership of the Committee on Conflict of Interest for Senators at the beginning of each session and this motion will be deemed adopted without debate or vote when moved and a similar motion will be moved for any substitution in the membership of the Committee.
Term of appointment (3) Subject to subsection (4) below, the Senators nominated under this rule shall, when their appointments are confirmed by the Senate, serve for the duration of the session for which they are appointed.

So this would seem an open-and-shut situation: a new session (what you get after you prorogue a Parliament) is needed for new, upstanding, fine, Conservative-majority committees to begin doing the work of pushing back against the Grit hordes in the Senate. But then there’s this section, which seems to suggest committee membership can be changed at any time in mid-course.

Change in Membership (4) Except as provided in subsection (2.1) above and subject to subsection (5) below, a change in the membership of a committee may be made by a notice filed with the Clerk of the Senate who shall cause such change to be recorded in the Journals of the Senate.

I’m not the one who’ll be able to judge all of this properly. Comments are welcome (I’ve learned they’re hard to stop), and especially welcome from readers with any authority in parliamentary procedure. Have at ‘er, ladies and gents.




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