Senate changes definition of a ‘caucus,’ ending Liberal, Conservative duopoly

Will be interesting to see how this evolves and how many caucuses, and their respective focuses, emerge:

The Senate has just voted for a major shake-up of how members of the Red Chamber align themselves by allowing nine or more members to form a caucus, a substantial break from tradition that has historically seen the place organized along party lines.

Members of the Senate adopted a key recommendation of the modernization committee’s report — released last fall — which removes the requirement that a caucus only be formed by those who are members of a political party registered under the Canada Elections Act.

Thus, in theory, there could now be a proliferation of caucuses along regional lines, something that has been favoured by Peter Harder, the government’s representative in the Senate, in the past for organizational purposes.

There could also be the creation of more narrowly-focused caucus groups, like senators who support environmental causes, or the military, an Indigenous or women’s caucus. The possibilities are nearly endless as long as there are at least nine senators who agree to band together, and their group is created for parliamentary and/or political purposes, requirements that are not overly stringent. (A senator, however, cannot be a member of more than one caucus.)

The change is a personal victory for Harder, and his reform agenda, as he has sought to dislodge the Conservative and Liberal duopoly in the Senate.

“I think it’s a victory for the Senate. This is the first major, permanent adjustment to the Senate rules and procedures coming out of the modernization committee,” Harder said in an interview with CBC News. “I just think its important for senators to be given the framework … to form affinities [and] I don’t have a road map or expectations or a design here.”

Harder said regional caucuses could form but he isn’t pushing for that type of division now, adding the process will “play out organically.”

When asked if there was demand by senators within the chamber to form new caucuses, Harder said yes. “Why else would it have been accepted by the Senate?”

The motion directs the Senate rules committee to now formalize the changes, and then requests the internal economy committee — which effectively governs the chamber and adjudicates complaints — to draw-up budgets for these prospective new caucuses, to help hire staff for “secretariats” and pursue research projects. The motion was adopted by a voice vote, so it is not clear how much support it had from the existing parties.

Source: Senate changes definition of a ‘caucus,’ ending Liberal, Conservative duopoly – Politics – CBC News

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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