Who inspired you to get involved in public life?
I have wanted to be Senator from the age of 12 when I would watch This Week in Parliament right before Hockey Night in Canada every Saturday night. I was always interested in law and politics and, to me, the Senate was the perfect combination of both.
What do you think are the biggest public policy issues facing Canada today?
Number one: definitely the economy. Secondly, an issue close to my heart: mental health. My husband, former Member of Parliament Dave Batters, suffered with severe anxiety and depression in the last two years of his life. Sadly, Dave died by suicide in 2009. Since his death, I have worked hard to dispel stigma and increase awareness about mental illness and suicide prevention. I have spoken to many large Canadian audiences and spoken to a lot of national and local media about these topics. Dave’s close friends and I hold the Dave Batters Memorial Golf Tournament each year in Regina – where all the money we raise goes to broadcast a 30-second ad focusing on depression and suicide prevention awareness. Unfortunately, millions of Canadians suffer with mental illness. I don’t want other Canadian families to endure the same fate mine did, and that is why I will continue to encourage people to reach out, get help and not suffer in silence.
Why should more Canadians care about what happens in the Senate?
The Senate is an important part of our parliamentary democracy. We do a lot of work to benefit Canadians, such as through our committee work. We can and do have a significant impact on the Canadian political scene. As a very recent example, the Senate discovered serious errors in the first bill that came to us this parliamentary session and we made sure this was corrected. If not for the Senate, the new Liberal government would not have been able to spend any of the $810 million covered by that Bill — monies that supported bringing refugees to Canada, among many other things.
What legislative or committee work are you most proud of participating in to date?
Bill C-36, Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (the Conservative federal government’s prostitution law). With this legislation, our Conservative government fundamentally shifted the landscape on the issue of prostitution so that the law would protect the vulnerable.
What is a hidden gem in your region that more Canadians need to know about?
Regina’s Wascana Centre — the largest urban park in North America and three times the size of Central Park. I really enjoy riding my bike through this park and around Wascana Lake for some peaceful reflection and to enjoy the beautiful Saskatchewan scenery.
Can you name a guilty pleasure song / album that always makes you smile and why?
Anything by the Backstreet Boys, although I refuse to be embarrassed about that! One song that I always have to listen to when it comes on the radio is Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway.
What is the last book you read or movie you saw which you recommended to someone else and why?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, because it brought me back to my childhood. I was seven years old when the very first Star Wars movie was released.
What sports team (amateur/professional) do you support?
Football — Saskatchewan Roughriders
Hockey — New York Islanders
Baseball — Toronto Blue Jays
Why are you proud to be Canadian?
My grandparents all came from Ukraine about 100 years ago, with the dream of having their children and grandchildren grow and prosper in this beautiful, free and democratic country. I was immensely proud to go to Ukraine in 2014 as a Canadian Senator to help oversee their presidential election.
If you could singlehandedly institute one change in the Senate, what would it be?
There are many changes my Senate colleagues and I have put into place and many more we are working toward, but one I would like to see in place as soon as possible would be televising our Chamber proceedings, to help Canadians see what we do. I think it is crucial for transparency and accountability. Right now, our committee meetings are televised but not the work in the Chamber. There are many excellent speeches and debates that occur in the Senate Chamber; Canadians deserve to be able to see them.
Describe your first experience in the Senate:
The first time I visited the Senate was with my late husband, Dave, on our honeymoon. The second time was to attend the memorial service for former parliamentarians, including Dave. And then the very next time I walked into the Senate Chamber was as a newly appointed Senator.