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The new relationship between the Senate and the rest of Parliament is continuing to shift and evolve. The latest development is one of Cabinet Ministers individually lobbying Senators in order to secure their votes in the Red Chamber. It seems like the natural thing to do, and certainly necessary if (as a Minister) you want to ensure that a contentious Bill makes it through the Chamber unamended, but the change also brings both a shift of influence to the Chamber and the danger that Cabinet may try to engage in quid pro quo negotiations with Senators in order to secure their votes. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, if the influence is used force the Cabinet and PMO to water-down or adjust government Bills. The change could force PMs to recognize that they are still responsible to Parliament, even if they can ride roughshod over the House.

By ABBAS RANA, PETER MAZEREEUW
PUBLISHED : Monday, July 3, 2017 12:00 AM
Cabinet ministers’ “systematic lobbying” of Senators on government legislation could undermine the independence of the Red Chamber and it’s up to each Senator to ensure they maintain independence in their voting decisions, says a Liberal Senator from Quebec.

“You have to use that vote for the purpose for which you’re called in the Senate, which is to exercise, advise, and consent on the basis of an independent point of view and examination of the bills or measures that are put to debate,” Sen. Serge Joyal (Kennebec, Que.) told The Hill Times last week.

“We’re not [lobbied] because, as my mother would say, we’re blond, have curly hair, and blue eyes. … We’re there because we have a vote. That’s it. All the rest are secondary considerations.”

Sen. Joyal defined “systematic lobbying” by cabinet ministers as “a minister getting in touch in-person, in his or her office, or over the phone, with all Senators who sit on a committee studying a bill or debating an issue, where the minister does not satisfy himself or herself with her or his testimony at committee, but wants to persuade Senators on a one-on-one basis.”

  

He excluded from this definition briefings provided to Senators who agree to sponsor government legislation or provided to official opposition Senators—which are the Conservatives, who generally oppose the Liberal government’s legislation.

Sen. Joyal said if a Senator is a forceful opponent of a particular piece of legislation, and the minister behind the bill lobbies the same Senator to get his or her vote, that Senator could get into a “give and take” discussion and be “in a negotiating position.” He said this situation could affect how the Senator in question casts his or her vote...

Liberal Senator urges colleagues to stand up against government pressure on voting decisions - The Hill Times - The Hill Times

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