Senator Donald Oliver
Nova Scotia's Senator
The Senate is the Upper House of the Canadian Parliament and is also known as the body of sober, second thought.
It ordinarily consists of 105 Senators, who are appointed by the Governor General, on advice of the Prime Minister.
History of the Senate
The Senate was created with the establishment of the British North America Act, 1867, during Confederation. At this time the country was divided into three regions: the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario. To provide regional representation the Senate distributed 24 Senate seats to both Ontario and Quebec, and 20 seats to the Maritimes, which only consisted of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. However, when Prince Edward Island joined in 1873, it was given four seats in the Senate to raise the Maritime representation to an equal 24 seats.
As the first two Western provinces to join Confederation, Manitoba (1870) and British Columbia (1871), received six seats in the Senate. To continue with this pattern, when Saskatchewan and Alberta joined the Federation in 1905, they were also given six seats. This brought the total of Western seats in the Senate to 24.
Finally when Newfoundland joined in 1949 it was awarded six seats and each of the territories in Canada has been designated only one seat due to their smaller populations.
Currently the Senate has 105 seats. However, 12 of these seats are currently empty. In Nova Scotia, only seven of its 10 seats are filled.
Role of the Senate
The role of the Senate includes, examining and revising legislation, investigating national issues, as well as representing minority, provincial and regional interests.
Once a bill is sent to the Senate, the Senate then has the power to add amendments or veto the bill. Alternatively the Senate may also choose to delay the bill or decide not to act on it until they are assured it is what the public wants.
Senate also has the ability to propose a bill, with the exception of money bills. Even if the bill does not pass, it can bring visibility to an issue. The government can also introduce bills in the Senate that are more technical in nature and require careful review.
Finally private bills introduced are introduced by a Canadian citizen are introduced at the Senate. These bills either concern a single person, organization or business. For example, prior to the Divorce Act of 1968, a private bill was submitted by an individual to get a legislative divorce. Recently, in 2006 Scouts Canada introduced a private bill in the Senate to make changes to their organization.
Each committee has three main tasks: to approve or amend legislation, investigate policy matter and make recommendations, and examine the Government’s spending proposals.
Within these committees Senators study specific bills and investigate issue referred to the Senate. Committees will hold hearings, arrange for expert testimony, speak to individual citizens, have meetings with government officials, and call for records and papers to be produced.
Past Senate committees have worked and reported on important issues such poverty in Canada, free trade, and the mass media.
To learn more about Senate committees, please visit the Committees section of my website.