Frequently Asked Questions

General information

Why did the Government introduce a new, independent Senate appointment process?

During the election campaign in 2015, we made a commitment to create a new, non-partisan, merit-based process for Senate appointments in order to end the partisan nature of the Senate, which has affected its reputation and effectiveness over the years. While recognizing the good work of many past and current senators, Canadians have been clear that the Senate needs to change. It’s a promise made, and a promise kept.

What is the new independent process for Senate appointments?

The Government established the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments to provide advice to the Prime Minister on candidates for Senate appointments.

In assessing candidates, the Advisory Board is guided by public, merit-based criteria in order to identify Canadians who would make a significant contribution to the work of the Senate. The Advisory Board produces shortlists of five names for each vacancy, for the Prime Minister’s consideration.

The new appointments process has been implemented in two phases. During the transitional phase, seven vacancies were filled in three provinces (two from Manitoba, three from Ontario, and two from Quebec).

The permanent phase, now underway, includes an application process open to all Canadians. The Advisory Board has been asked to provide the Prime Minister with non-binding recommendations on appointments to fill 19 current vacancies and one anticipated Senate vacancy (due to a mandatory retirement in August 2016) in seven provinces: British Columbia (1); Manitoba (2); Ontario (6); Quebec (6); New Brunswick (2); Nova Scotia (2); and Prince Edward Island (1).

Does this process require a constitutional amendment?

Under the Constitution, the power to appoint senators rests with the Governor General. By constitutional convention, the Governor General’s power is exercised on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The Independent Advisory Board prepares a non-binding short list for the Prime Minister’s consideration for each vacancy to be filled, based on a clear and transparent mandate to assess candidates on the basis of the public, merit-based criteria.

Are the provinces and territories included in the process?

Two of the five Advisory Board members are selected from the province or territory in which a vacancy arises in recognition of the important role the Senate plays in regional representation. The provincial or territorial members each serve for one year terms.

The Government asks provinces and territories to propose names of potential Board members, prior to appointing Board members from that jurisdiction.

How many vacancies are to be filled?

In the permanent phase of the process, now underway, 19 current vacancies as well as one anticipated vacancy (due to a mandatory retirement in August 2016) will be filled in seven provinces: British Columbia (1); Manitoba (2); Ontario (6); Quebec (6); New Brunswick (2); Nova Scotia (2); and Prince Edward Island (1).

Can I apply to become a senator?

Yes. There is an application process open to all Canadians, which is found at http://www.canada.ca/senate-appointments.

What are the requirements to become a senator?

Individuals must meet the constitutional qualifications with respect to citizenship, age, property, and residence.

The Advisory Board will assess candidates against a transparent and published set of merit-based criteria.

Are the Board’s recommendations to the Prime Minister binding?

No. The decision to recommend to the Governor General persons for appointment to the Senate rests with the Prime Minister.

What will happen once the Advisory Board provides its recommendations to the Prime Minister?

The Prime Minister will take into consideration the names recommended by the Advisory Board and recommend to the Governor General persons for appointment to the Senate.

The Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

What is the role and mandate of the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments?

The Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments is an independent and non-partisan body whose mandate is to provide non-binding, merit-based recommendations to the Prime Minister on Senate nominations. Its terms of reference can be found here http://www.democraticinstitutions.gc.ca/eng/content/terms-reference-advisory-board.

The Advisory Board assesses potential candidates based on public, merit-based criteria, in order to identify Canadians who would make a significant contribution to the work of the Senate. The criteria will help ensure a high standard of integrity, collaboration, and non-partisanship in the Senate.

How many members will sit on the Advisory Board?

The Advisory Board has five members: a federal Chair and two other federal members and two ad hoc provincial or territorial members for the province or territory where a vacancy is being filled.

How are members appointed to the Advisory Board?

The Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, appoints the three federal members.

The provincial and territorial members of the Advisory Board are appointed following consultations with the provinces and territories having vacancies.

How long is each member’s term?

Federal members of the Advisory Board each serve for two year terms and the provincial or territorial members each serve for one year terms. However, the initial terms of the first federal members appointed are staggered to avoid turnover of all members at the same time in the future. The initial terms are 30 months, 24 months, and 18 months respectively.

May a member’s term be renewed?

Yes.

How many names will the Board recommend to the Prime Minister for each Senate vacancy?

Five.

Are members of the Advisory Board paid?

Advisory Board members are entitled to a per diem rate which is consistent with the Remuneration Guidelines for Part-Time Governor in Council Appointees in Agencies, Boards and Commissions. This per diem range is $375-$450 for members and $550-$650 for the Chairperson.

What is the timeline for the Advisory Board to provide its recommendations to the Prime Minister?

The Government’s stated objective is to have the existing vacancies filled by the end of 2016.