An order-in-council was passed last week creating a new advisory process for Senate appointments.
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau P.C., M.P., the Prime Minister, has achieved another one of the Liberals' campaign promises through the introduction of a process that is going to see the Senate become a more independent and effective body of sober second thought to complement the work of our elected representatives. On January 19, Order-in-Council 2016-0011 was signed, which created the mandate of the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments.
The Liberals had promised, during the election campaign, to create a non-partisan, merit-based, broad, and diverse process to advise on the appointment of future senators. Reading through the terms of reference that the Government has enacted, it looks like they are doing exactly that.
Composition of the Advisory Board
The advisory board is going to consist of three federal members, one of whom shall chair the board; the federal members serve for two-year terms. There are also two provincial members for each province with Senate vacancies, who serve for one-year terms. The federal members participate in all deliberations, whereas the provincial members participate in discussions respecting that province.
Advisory board members are appointed under the Public Service Employment Act as special advisors to the prime minister, and appointments to the advisory board are renewable. The advisory board meets at the request of the prime minister. The advisory board is assisted in its work by the Deputy Secretary to Cabinet (Senior Personnel, Business Transformation and Renewal), or their designate.
The remuneration for members of the advisory board was set on January 19, 2016, through Order-in-Council 2016-0021. The chairperson of the advisory board receives a per diem of $550 to $650, and other members of the advisory board receive per diems of $375 to $450. All members of the advisory board are eligible for travel reimbursement when traveling on advisory board business, and for other reasonable incidental expenses.
Recommendations to the Prime Minister
The process for the advisory board sets out that they must "observe the highest standards of impartiality, integrity and objectivity in their consideration of all potential candidates" (s. 6(a)). The advisory board must vet candidates fairly and consistently against the qualifications for senators provided provided by the prime minister and pursuant to the Constitution Act, 1867. They are responsible for interviewing potential candidates and conducting reference checks.
Notably, the advisory board also has a mandate to assist the Government in its pursuit of "gender balance and to ensure representation of Indigenous peoples and linguistic, minority and ethnic communities in the Senate" (s. 6(e)). The advisory board must also ensure that, throughout its processes, it is in compliance with the Privacy Act, the Conflict of Interest Act, and the Ethical and Political Activity Guidelines for Public Office Holders.
The advisory board terms of reference also set out conflict of interest rules, which appear to be fairly standard. Advisory board members must declare if they have any direct or indirect personal interest or professional or business relationship with a potential candidate; if the advisory board feels that the relationship is such that they should be excluded for deliberations, then they are excluded.
The advisory board must present five (5) nominees for each Senate vacancy, from which the prime minister may then make an appointment. Within three months of when the advisory board advises the prime minister, a report must be made public, in both official languages, which reviews the process, the execution of the advisory board's terms of reference, and any costs incurred.
While the advisory board is going to be responsible for creating an open application process for Canadians to apply for consideration for Senate appointments, the fact of the matter is that the refusal of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper P.C., M.P. (Calgary Heritage) to advise the Governor General on Senate appointments has resulted in a crisis of vacancy in the Upper House.
While the open application process is being developed, the advisory board has a mandate, during early 2016, to conduct an extensive consultation to inform the urgent appointment of five senators (two for Ontario, one for Manitoba, and two for Québec). The advisory board has a mandate to consult groups "which represent Indigenous people and linguistic, minority and ethnic communities, provincial, territorial, and municipal organizations, labour organizations, community-based service groups, arts councils, and provincial or territorial chambers of commerce" (s. 8(2)).
Who's on the Advisory Board?
Huguette Labelle C.C., O.Ont., Chair of the Advisory Board
The chairperson of the advisory board is Huguette Labelle C.C., O.Ont., a retired and very accomplished civil servant. Labelle has served as head of several government departments, and has served as one of the deputy clerks of the Privy Council. Since her retirement from the civil service, Labelle has also served as chancellor of the University of Ottawa, and currently serves as the board chair of Transparency International (and has for over a decade). Labelle is a companion of the Order of Canada (the highest level in the Canadian honours system), and is a member of the Order of Ontario (the highest civilian honour in that province).
The federal members of the advisory board are Indira Samarasekera O.C., and Daniel Jutras. Samarasekera has a long history of working in public post-secondary education, culminating in a decade as the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Alberta — the first female president of any Alberta university. Samarasekera has nearly a half-dozen honorary degrees, and is an officer of the Order of Canada. Jutras is the dean of law at McGill University.
The provincial members of the advisory board are:
- Sylvie Bernier C.M., Q.C. (Québec)
- Heather Bishop C.M., O.M. (Manitoba)
- Dawn Lavell Harvard (Ontario)
- Yves Lamontagne C.M., Q.C. (Québec)
- Susan Lewis C.M., O.M. (Manitoba)
- Murray Segal (Ontario)
- Order-in-Council 2016-0011 (Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada) (mandate)
- Order-in-Council 2016-0012 (Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada) (Labelle)
- Order-in-Council 2016-0013 (Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada) (Samarasekara)
- Order-in-Council 2016-0014 (Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada) (Jutras)
- Order-in-Council 2016-0021 (Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada) (remuneration)