The Canadian Senate is likely the one government institution that has faced the most serious scrutiny of late. Despite talks of abolition and proposals for reform, Canada’s institution of sober second thought still remains, although the team jerseys worn by many of its members have changed.
The shift for some Senators, away from the clutches of party caucus and discipline, toward greater independence, leads to more general questions regarding the extent to which independence can and should exist both inside and outside the Senate. For instance, what about members of the House of Commons? What role do political parties currently play in restricting the independence of elected members? What role does the caucus play in maintaining party discipline? And what is the extent of the leader’s disciplinary power when it comes to members that fall out of line?
In this one-day workshop, the former Senate Liberal Leader, James Cowan, will explore the very important question of individual member independence from the political party. He will examine some of the recent events that have taken place, including the forced expulsion of all Liberal Senators from caucus and the latest ousting of two prominent former Cabinet members from the Liberal party.
What should we make of all that has transpired of late? Is the increased independence of some Senators good for the functionality of the institution? More broadly, can democracy function effectively if members, either elected or appointed, are under threat of being kicked off the team when they disagree with the party line? And has the Reform Act helped in any way, or does more still need to be done?