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be part of the Cabinet. This change discontinued a practice followed since Confederation for the Leader of the Government in the Senate to also be a Cabinet Minister.

Senate scandals and Senate reform

Since the Harper Government took office in 2006, Senate Reform has been at the core of its legislative platform. Bills aimed at establishing a framework to consult electors before Senate appointments are made (currently, appointments are made at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister), and at reducing the tenure of Senators from appointment until mandatory retirement at 75 years of age to an eight or nine year maximum tenure, were introduced in each parliamentary session since 2006. The constitutionality of these legislative proposals, however, has been questioned and the bills have never come to a final vote in either House of Parliament. In 2007, a Special Senate Committee recommended that the Senate not proceed with the debate on third reading of Bill S-4, aimed at reducing the tenure of

procedure that would need to be followed for its abolition, were referred to the Supreme Court of Canada for an advisory opinion by the Government. The judgement of the Court is expected sometime in 2014. The Harper Government

received unexpected support Hon. Mike Duffy Hon. Marjory LeBreton

Senators to eight years until the Supreme Court of Canada had ruled on its constitutionality. The constitutionality of the

proposals and other constitutional issues relating to the Senate, such as the constitutional amendment

for its reform agenda from the Senate itself. Four Senators, including Hon. Mike Duffy, Hon. Mac Harb, Hon. Pamela Wallin, and Hon. Patrick Brazeau got into hot water when their housing and residence expenses were questioned. According to the Senate’s rules, Senators who did not have their primary residences in the Ottawa area were entitled to claim travel and residence expenses. Senators were also entitled to travel expenses that resulted from their parliamentary business. In 2012, it was revealed that the above-named Senators may have claimed expenses they were not entitled to. Senator Duffy paid back the amount erroneously claimed on his behalf, but it was later discovered later that the significant sum used to repay the Senate had been received from Nigel Wright, the Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister stated he was unaware of these arrangements. Consquently, Mr Wright resigned from his position as chief of staff, and Senator Duffy is no longer part of the Conservative caucus. Senators Brazeau and Wallin

also sit as independent and are no longer members of the Conservative caucus. Senator Brazeau has allegedly claimed erroneous expenses, but he has also recently been charged with assault, and been temporarily suspended by the Senate while the matter was before the court. In the case of Senator Harb, a Liberal, the Senator had originally contested the claim made against him for past expenses, even filing an action before the Court to have the decision of the Senate set aside. He, however, changed his course, dropped the case and paid the amounts claimed, at the same time retiring from the Senate. The matters were now being investigated by the authorities, and the Auditor General of Canada was examining all Senators’ expenses.


This summer, Prime Minister Harper announced that Parliament would not resume sitting in mid-September as planned, but would reconvene in mid-October with a new parliamentary session and Speech from the Throne. The decision to prorogue was unpopular, with two-thirds of Canadians opposed to it. According to contemporary Canadian practices, Parliament is not prorogued on an annual basis or another pre-established schedule, and it is not rare for sessions to last close to two years. The current session began on 2 June 2011. Prorogations and new sessions generally went almost unnoticed by most Canadians until 2008, when the Harper Government prorogued Parliament just a few days into the new session in order to avoid a likely defeat on a vote of confidence. Since then, prorogation has been seen by members of the public as a questionable parliamentary tactic. Even the routine prorogation in

December 2009 was criticized, along with the upcoming one. This time, Opposition members claimed that the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament to avoid having to answer questions about the recent Senate scandals. The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Tom Mulcair, MP, said: “That’s the problem, Stephen Harper doesn’t respect our democratic institutions, he’s hiding from his own accountability and we’re calling on him to start showing some leadership, to show up in Parliament and start giving clear answers on the Senate scandal and on a lot of other issues that are plaguing his government.”

On the road to the next general election

When Parliament is reconvened in mid-October, this will likely be the last Speech from the Throne from the Harper Government before the next General Election, tentatively scheduled for 19 October 2015. Since 2007, Canadian legislation has provided for fixed date elections held in October of every fourth year, but the power of the Governor General to dissolve Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister has remained in place. This means that a General Election can still be called before the end of the four-year timeline if, for example, the government were to lose a vote of confidence or the Prime Minister were to seek the dissolution for any other appropriate reason, as Prime Minister Harper did in September 2008. With a General Election anticipated for 19 October 2015, and an electoral campaign prescribed by law of at least 36 days, parliamentary business would end in June 2015, giving the government a year and a half after it meets Parliament again in late 2013 to work toward convincing Canadians to give it a second majority.

The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three | 219

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