Senator Harder urges colleagues to keep Canadians at centre of reform efforts
Senator Peter Harder speaks about Senate renewal in Grimsby, Ontario.
February 23, 2017 — Canada’s Senate is changing for the better, but will only achieve its ultimate goals for renewal if Canadians are convinced it is working in their best interests, says Senator Peter Harder, Government Representative in the Senate.
Speaking in Grimsby, Ont., Senator Harder told listeners that Senators must continue to vigorously pursue reforms to the upper chamber if they want to capitalize on what he believes is a reservoir of goodwill for reform.
“I’m from around here, so I know that folks are generous and ready to give us the benefit of the doubt,” Sen. Harder said. “But I also know that patience doesn’t last forever, and we have to continue putting our words into action.”
Sen. Harder was raised in nearby Vineland and attended Beamsville District Secondary School before leaving for university and eventually moving to Ottawa. He currently acts as Government Representative in the Senate, responsible for shepherding legislation through the upper chamber and for pushing forward with the reform process.
He made his remarks today as he and six other Independent senators are about to celebrate the first anniversary of their appointment. They are the first to have been selected under a merit-based, non-partisan process which is designed to build a more independent, accountable, and transparent Senate. The chamber currently numbers 42 Independents, 39 Conservatives, 19 Independent Liberals and five vacancies.
Senator Harder said that the new appointment process has introduced many extremely qualified Canadians to the Upper House, whose votes are no longer directed by mainline parties. The new system is helping to change the national conversation about the Senate from patronage, scandal and significance to how it can best fulfil the role that the Fathers of Confederation envisioned.
“As change materializes, Canadians are beginning to glimpse the Senate’s important role in helping make good law.” He noted that Senators have affected change on bills that include medically-assisted dying, consumer protection and a bill dealing with gender discrimination under the Indian Act.
He added, however, that debate can sometimes be unduly delayed in the upper chamber and Canadians will take note if passing legislation becomes overly prolonged.
“When all is said and done, our job is not to simply make the Senate look good. Our role is to pursue the business of the country, to make legislation better and to serve the public interest,” he said.