Senator Bellemare: “Come knock on my door”
Senator Diane Bellemare spoke at a Colleges and Institutes Canada conference in Ottawa.
October 3, 2017 — Canadians are being invited to make their views known to a Canadian Senate that is in the midst of historic renewal, Senator Diane Bellemare told a group of educators at a conference in Ottawa today.
“Come knock on my door,” she said during the event organized by Colleges and Institutes Canada.
Calls for changes in the Senate are nearly as old as Canada itself but recent moves are actually transforming the institution into a more independent legislative body, she said.
“The myth of the Senate as a rubber stamp is now officially shattered. The Senate is improving its role as a chamber of sober second thought,” she said.
Her own journey as a Senator mirrors this change – appointed as a Conservative Senator in 2012, Bellemare chose to sit as an independent in 2016 and was then appointed as Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate.
Though the role keeps her busy, she still finds time to pursue her passion as an economist. And as a former university academic, she said she knows the important role colleges play in achieving inclusive economic growth.
“I am a firm believer that colleges help people transition to the labour market. Knowledge is not enough: we need skills and applied knowledge,” she said. “As a Senator, I still advocate for issues of training and full employment.”
Senators who are independent can consider legislation without the constraints of party loyalty, and in doing so bring a different perspective when reviewing legislation, she said.
A new Senate appointment process, which relies on an independent body to make recommendations, is changing the makeup of the Senate. While formerly divided along the lines of two parties, the Senate now has a third group of independents, called the Independent Senators Group. There is also a three-person government representative team, which includes Bellemare, tasked with shepherding government legislation through the Senate.
The changes so far are historic, but there’s more work to do moving forward.
“Rules don’t change quickly but the Senate is changing in practice,” she said.