If there is one job out there that gets more flak than an elected politician, it is a non-elected politician.
Welcome to the thankless life of a Senator.
What exactly is a Senator?
A Senator is a politician who sits in the Upper House of Parliament, known as the Senate. The Senate is the second legislative body of our bicameral Parliament, meaning that they can create, amend and defeat laws.
Senators will often identify with a political party and sit together with other members of that party in what is known as the Senatorial caucus. Together with the caucus of party members from the House of Commons, they create the national caucus, consisting of both Members of Parliament and Senators.
How does one become a Senator?
A Senator is appointed by the Governor General on recommendation of the Prime Minister. How the Prime Minister chooses which people to appoint to the Senate is up to him or her.
For example, under the premiership of Stephen Harper, he encouraged provinces to create their own election legislation to elect their own Senators. Alberta did so and holds an election in conjunction with a provincial election whenever a vacancy is available. This occurred during Stephen Harper’s premiership and he appointed four Senators who were elected from Alberta.
Under the premiership of Justin Trudeau, the government has created a committee appointed by the Prime Minister to review and recommend senatorial appointments to the Prime Minister.
Canadians can now apply to the committee to be consideration. Any appointments to the Senate under Justin Trudeau will be non-partisan, as in the appointed Senator has agreed not to be affiliated with a political party. However, there is no way to stop the Senator to align with a political party once he or she has been appointed.
What are the qualifications to become a Senator?
Besides the qualifications of the committee established by Prime Minister Trudeau, a Senator must be a citizen of Canada, at least 35 years old and hold at least $4,000 in real property (as in real estate).
Senators are appointed until they turn 75 years old, much like a judge. Senators cannot be removed from office, unless the Senator:
- fails to attend to consecutive sessions of Parliament
- becomes a citizen of a foreign nation
- declares bankruptcy or insolvency
- is convicted of treason or felony
- no longer holds the minimum required amount of property in province in which they represent (region for Senators from Quebec)
What do Senators do?
To be perfectly honest, besides the reasons for a Senator losing their seat as mentioned above, there is little accountability measures to force a Senator to do their job. There are plenty examples of Canadian Senators who have essentially used their appointment to collect a pay cheque and be on their merry way.
However, luckily for us pro-lifers, there are some very hard-working, unsung heroes in the Senate working on our behalf. Senators have just as busy of a parliamentary schedule as their colleagues in the House of Commons. The Senate sits just as long (often longer) than the House of Commons to introduce, debate and vote on legislation. There is a Question Period in the Senate just as there is in the House of Commons (it just isn’t televised). Senators also sit on various committees that study, amend and vote on legislation.
Becoming a Senator is also a sacrifice. Many Senators have professional degrees and qualifications. As such, they will often pass up job opportunities that pay more money, have less hours and are not based in snowy Ottawa.
What does this mean for pro-lifers?
Having pro-life Senators would go a very long way to ensure that the Senate passes any pro-life legislation coming from the House of Commons. Additionally, pro-life Senators can also propose pieces of pro-life legislation.
Since Senators cannot be whipped like their colleagues in the House of Commons, they are more open to arguments of logic as opposed to arguments of politics. As a pro-lifer, one of the most effective things you can do is organize a meeting with a Senator or two from your province.
Most people ignore the Senate and do not lobby Senators for particular pieces of legislation. Contact us at RightNow and we can help you get in touch with the Senators from your province!