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The Senate of Canada Annual Report 2005-2006



Canada's senators  


Senators and legislation  


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it's been said before ... debate is crucial to democracy.

If debate is enthusiastic, widespread, comprehensive, and above all, encouraged, then our political system, however imperfect, is still serving us well. In fact, more debate is what the Fathers of Confederation gave us the Senate for: a chamber free to represent the interests of regions and minorities, instead of populations and majorities, and to check what could otherwise be the domination of Parliament by a majority government, with its potential for stifling disagreement.

There is always danger, in a representative democracy, that the processes of getting power and keeping it will prevail over making the best use of that power. A democracy works well only if it has some understanding of its own weaknesses, and tries to provide for them. Up to now, the Senate of Canada has helped us do that.

National Post - Gerald Owen

 It's a sign of the strength of our democracy that one of our most passionate national debates concerns one of our houses of Parliament. That we can freely criticize, praise, or suggest changes to our political system is a wonderful thing. But another truism of democracy is that good information is the foundation of good debate. Without debate, our thought becomes stagnant; but without accurate information, the results of our debate can be dangerous.

This annual report aims to add some information to the debate.

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Noël A. Kinsella
As senators, our first responsibility is to determine how we can best serve Canadians now and in the future, as individuals, and as an institution.

People all over the world long to live in a country like Canada, in peace and freedom, and with the right to participate in expressing our values and shaping the country through our democratic parliamentary system.

Canadian citizens are guaranteed rights and freedoms seldom matched or exceeded elsewhere. From the beginning, our parliamentary system has ensured that every citizen is represented in debating and passing legislation that enshrines deeply-held Canadian values.

As Sir John A. Macdonald stated during the debates leading to Confederation in 1867, the Senate was intended to be "a regulating body, calmly considering the legislation initiated by the popular branch and preventing any hasty or ill-considered legislation which may come from that body…."

As senators, our first responsibility is to determine how we can best serve Canadians now and in the future, as individuals, and as an institution. It was with this uppermost in mind, and with a deep appreciation of the Senate's history and tradition, that I accepted the role of Speaker of the Senate in February 2006. It is a privilege and an honour to be playing a part in the evolution of the institution at this interesting point in its history.

We hope this annual report gives you, the reader, a better sense of how we work at the Senate and that the information it contains illustrates how committed senators are to making their vision of Canada a reality.

Noël A. Kinsella
Speaker of the Senat

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George Furey
Our administration makes good use of the funds entrusted to it, ensuring that senators are served efficiently as they carry out their responsibilities.

The Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, which I am honoured to chair, directs and oversees the internal administrative and financial workings of the Senate. It does so on behalf of all senators, and in turn, all Canadians.

The members of this committee are highly aware of their responsibilities; it is critical for our houses of Parliament to stand as examples of good governance for all corporate organizations. This is particularly true because our "shareholders" include every one of Canada's 32.5 million people, from the elderly woman who relies on the veterans' pension plan to the premature baby nursed and nurtured by our socialized medical system. Spending tax dollars wisely is a moral and ethical responsibility.

To this end, I am glad to report that the Senate continued to provide excellent value to Canadians in fiscal year 2005-06. Our administration makes good use of the funds entrusted to it, ensuring that senators are served efficiently as they carry out their responsibilities. I am also pleased to note that the first Senate Ethics Officer, Jean T. Fournier, assumed the duties of his office on April 1, 2005. This independent officer will add to the transparency of senators' activities, making the entire institution even more accountable to the people it serves.

I hope that this annual report, as another tool for increasing accountability to the public, is useful to its readers. It certainly reflects the hard work of both senators and the Senate Administration on behalf of Canadians.

George J. Furey, Q.C.
Chair, Standing Committee
on Internal Economy,
Budgets and Administration

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Paul C. Bélisle
We are proud of our accomplishments, past and present. We are proud of how we continue to improve within our tradition of supporting senators as they work to make Canada a better society.

For 139 years, under 39 consecutive Parliaments, the Senate Administration has worked diligently to provide senators with the tools they need to effectively serve and represent Canadians. These tools have evolved considerably since the first group of senators took their seats in 1867; it's unlikely they could have imagined the possibilities that webcasting, network drives and commercial air travel have opened up to their counterparts today. But I am sure that the same spirit of hard work and collective pride has motivated Administration employees through the years - the same sense of shouldering a shared task important to all Canadians that is such an important part of the Senate Administration's character today.

This organization, which I head, was comprised of roughly 450 officials, managers and employees in 2005-06. Our people work to support senators inside and outside the Senate chamber with telecommunications and IT expertise, security, human resources support, materiel management, and communications and procedural advice, among many other services. There are as many roles in the Administration as there are ways for senators to do their job. These roles are filled by experts in their fields whose work enhances the effectiveness and efficiency of our organization.

Like any good corporate body, the Administration continues to improve its work methods, discover synergies and explore creative ways to save Canadians money. As you will read in Chapter Five of this annual report, we have made some significant gains over fiscal year 2005-06.

We are proud of our accomplishments, past and present. We are proud of how we continue to improve within our tradition of supporting senators as they work to make Canada a better society. We are proud of our contribution to the Senate's work on behalf of Canadians.

Paul C. Bélisle
Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments

Dessus de page

This annual report details the activities of senators and the Senate Administration for fiscal year 2005-06. The first four chapters highlight the roles senators play as members of a legislature and as members of society. The last chapter gives information about the red chamber's administrative activities, finances and employees.

We hope you find this document useful. Above all, we hope it adds to a wide-ranging, hearty debate about the value of this institution. Debate, after all, is what the Senate was made for.

Let's continue the debate.

Dessus de page

Let's see it

the way the Fathers of Confederation did: the dilemma of a single house of Parliament, ruled by a majority, directed by Cabinet, disregarding debate to push through an agenda. The populous central provinces outweighing the opinions of other regions with their representation by population. Minority opinions briefly entertained, then dismissed. Majority power unchecked, with its potential for abuse.

Fathers of Confederation

Photo: "The Fathers of Confederation" by Rex Woods, 1969 (oil). Reproduced with the permission of Rogers Communications Inc.

Their solution?

The Senate. A second body to deliver more debate. An institution representing regions, not majorities. Political, yes, but more independent: less easily swayed by party leadership, the short-term vision of re-election, the hope of advancement. Weight in the scale to balance the potential for a "tyranny of the majority."

It's a vision that senators work hard to maintain.
This year...

They championed minorities

They championed

minorities and the disenfranchised. From Senator Munson's crusade for medicare support for autistic children to Senator Watt's guarding of the Inuit right to traditional hunting practices, senators protected the rights of minorities and the disenfranchised and ensured our democratic responsibility to respect the underrepresented.

They represented

their regions. Senators often speak with their region's voice. Senator Carney raised the alarm on the disconnection of Pacific coast foghorns in response to the concerns of BC coastal municipalities. Senator Sibbeston gained attention for the Northwest Territory's concerns about the impact of expanding Nahanni National Park on regional economic development. In the Senate chamber and out, senators spoke up for their people.

They represented their regions

They challenged us to question our assumptions

They challenged

us to question our assumptions. Senate committee reports have impact. Reports on the security of our borders, the lack of structures to heal the mentally ill and the state of our water supply have injected life into national debate. Despite four months of dissolution for the election of 2006, Senate committees undertook 38 social and economic studies this year. They spent 830 hours listening to Canadians, hearing from over 1,300 witnesses, and reported what they heard.

They improved

our laws. Committees gave 51 bills their attention this year, scrutinizing each bill they passed clause by clause. Senators spent nearly 80 hours debating bills in the chamber and 175 hours considering them in committee. Their amendments made for better laws. The Senate is more than a "chamber of sober second thought." It takes action.

They improved our laws

This is the work Canada's senators did in 2005-2006.