Ottawa, May 30th, 2006 -- The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for
Democratic Reform, and the Honourable Marjory LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate, today took the
first step in reforming the senate.
A bill introduced in the Senate today will limit the tenure of new Senators to a period of eight years, while
allowing existing Senators to hold their appointment until reaching the age of 75.
"Fixed terms of eight years will allow Senators to gain the necessary experience to carry out their important
parliamentary functions while at the same time ensuring that the Senate is refreshed with new perspectives and ideas
on a regular basis," said Senator LeBreton.
"The Senate must continue to reflect the expectations of Canadians for their democratic institutions," stated Minister
Nicholson. "This amendment represents an important step in achieving that while at the same time ensuring that Senators
will continue to fulfill their important legislative role in our Parliamentary system."
Under current practice, Senators must be at least 30 years of age and they can hold their Senate seats until the age
of 75 years, meaning that Senators can potentially serve for as long as 45 years.
"The Senate is one forum in which the concerns and interests of Canadians can be brought forward," added Minister LeBreton.
"Reducing the tenure of Senators is one important step in ensuring that the legitimacy of the Senate and its work is
In the April 4, 2006 Speech from the Throne, Canada's new Government committed to 'explore means to ensure that the
Senate better reflects both the democratic values of Canadians and the needs of Canada's regions.'
For information, contact:
Office of the Leader of the Government
in the House of Commons
and Minister for Democratic Reform
Office of the Leader of the
Government in the Senate
There is currently no fixed tenure for Senators, apart from the broad
parameters set out in the Constitution Act, 1867. Pursuant to
section 23 of the Act, Senators "shall be of the full age of Thirty Years",
and according to section 29 (2), a Senator shall "hold his place in the Senate
until he attains the age of seventy-five years". Thus, a Senator could serve a
term as long as 45 years should he or she be appointed at the age of 30 and
serve until the mandated retirement age.
A longer tenure for Senators than for members of the House of Commons is
linked to the original concept of the Senate as an independent institution that
both complements and provides balance to the elected House of Commons through
independent, sober second thought.
Senators were originally appointed to the Senate "for Life", but that was
changed unilaterally by Parliament through an amendment to section 29 of the Constitution
Act, 1867 (via the Constitution Act, 1965) that created the current
mandatory retirement provision for Senators attaining the age of 75 years.
In 1980, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Senate Reference
that it would be beyond the legislative authority of Parliament to amend the
Constitution to abolish the Senate or otherwise to alter its fundamental
features and essential characteristics. The Court did not rule specifically on
the issue of Senate tenure, but cited the 1965 amendment as an example of how
Parliament could act alone to amend the Constitution.
The essential characteristics identified by the Court were, for the most
part, protected expressly in section 42 of the Constitution Act, 1982,
which provides that changes to "the powers of the Senate and the method of
selecting Senators" and "the numbers of members by which a province is
entitled to be represented in the Senate" require the support of the Houses of
Parliament and the legislative assemblies of two-thirds of the provinces.
Section 42 does not refer specifically to the tenure of Senators.
Pursuant to section 44 of the Constitution Act, 1982, Parliament may
unilaterally make laws amending the Constitution of Canada in relation to the
executive government of Canada, or the Senate and the House of Commons. This
bill uses section 44 to amend section 29 of the Constitution Act, 1867 to
limit the tenure to eight years. A term of eight years will allow Senators to
gain the experience necessary to fulfil the Senate's important role in
legislative review and investigation, while at the same ensuring that the Senate
is refreshed with new perspectives and ideas on a regular basis.