Trudeau taps Quebec senator as Liberal government's new rep in upper chamber
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is tapping Sen. Marc Gold, a constitutional law expert and former chair of the Jewish Federations of Canada, to serve as the Liberal government's representative in the upper chamber.
The Quebec senator replaces Sen. Peter Harder, who announced he was stepping down from the role in November after three years in the position to allow for some new blood. Harder remains a senator.
Gold was appointed to the Senate on the advice of Trudeau in November 2016 and has been a member of the Independent Senators Group.
As Trudeau's representative in the upper chamber, Gold will be responsible for advancing the Liberal government's legislative agenda in the Senate, where the majority of Canada's 105 senators are unaffiliated with any of the major parties.
Harder's dual role as a nominally Independent senator who handled the Liberal government's business had come under criticism from the remaining Conservative senators.
"Senator Gold's long record of personal and professional achievement, together with his commitment to promoting human rights and Canada's regional diversity, will help us find common ground in the Senate as we invest in and protect our communities, create good middle-class jobs, and fight climate change," Trudeau said in a statement.
"I look forward to working with him to build a better Canada for all Canadians."
Trudeau still has the task of filling empty seats in the upper chamber to reach a full complement of senators. Two Conservative senators retired in early November: New Brunswick's Paul McIntyre and British Columbia's Richard Neufeld. There will be seven more retirements slated for this year.
A memo provided to Trudeau shortly after his re-election noted that overall, 24 vacancies are expected to pop up by the end of 2023. That does not include other senators who may step down prior to reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.
The Liberals reworked part of the Senate appointments process shortly after taking office in late 2015 by allowing people to apply for open seats.
Ultimately, the prime minister has final say on whose name he puts forward for the Senate, which is an appointment made officially by the Governor General. That has not changed from the previous process that existed under the Conservatives and other governments before them.
Trudeau has chosen 50 senators "under the understanding they would be called upon to play their role independent of partisan influence," officials wrote in the briefing material, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
That cohort coalesced into an affiliation known as the Independent Senators Group, or ISG.
"If there are no early retirements, changes in affiliation, or expulsions, the Independent Senators Group will continue to hold the majority of seats in the Senate for the duration of the next mandate," reads the memo.
The memo also notes that the Liberal platform promised to amend the Parliament of Canada Act "to reflect the Senate's new, non-partisan role." However, the remainder of what officials wrote has been redacted from the document because it is deemed sensitive government advice.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2020.