Frequently Asked Questions

General information

Why is the Government introducing a new, independent Senate appointment process?

The Government is acting on its 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 recent years. Despite the good work of many past and current Senators, Canadians have been clear that the Senate needs to change.

A phased-in approach to the process will permit that change to begin now and to learn from the transitional phase before opening up the permanent process more broadly.

What is the new independent process for Senate appointments?

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

The new appointments process will be implemented in two phases. During the immediate transitional phase, five vacancies will be filled from the provinces with the most vacancies (two from Manitoba, two from Ontario, and one from Quebec) by early 2016. The permanent process will be established later in 2016 and will include an application process open to all Canadians.

Does this process require a constitutional amendment?

No. 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 will be preparing a non-binding short-list for the Prime Minister’s consideration for each vacancy to be filled. 

Are the provinces and territories included in the process?

Two of the five Advisory Board members will be selected from the province or territory in which a vacancy arises. For the transitional process, the provinces have been consulted on provincial members for the Advisory Board.

How many vacancies are to be filled?

As of January 2016, there are 22 vacancies in the Senate from seven provinces (British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island). Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec have the most vacancies and their representation will be improved as part of the transitional process.

It is hoped that five vacancies in those provinces will be filled under the transitional process by early 2016. The remaining 17 vacancies will be filled later in 2016.

Why is a transitional process being established to fill vacancies in Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec?

Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec have the greatest number of vacancies in proportion to their seats in the Senate. The first set of appointments to the Senate will bring those provinces up to a level of representation comparable to the other provinces with vacancies.

Can I apply to become a Senator?

During the current transitional phase, the Advisory Board will consult within Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec in order to seek candidates for the Senate. This could include consultations with groups which represent Indigenous peoples and linguistic, minority and ethnic communities, provincial, territorial and municipal organizations, labour organizations, community-based service groups, arts councils, and provincial or territorial chambers of commerce.

For the permanent process to be launched later in 2016, individual Canadians can apply. A webpage will outline how Canadians may submit applications for consideration by the Advisory Board. Applicants must meet the published criteria to be considered by the Advisory Board.

What are the requirements to become a Senator?

The Constitution provides for qualifications with respect to citizenship, age, property, and residence.

In addition, the Advisory Board will review 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.

A permanent process will then be launched later in 2016 with further enhancements. We will also consider the lessons learned and comments received during the transitional phase and on an ongoing basis. The permanent process will include an application process open to all Canadians.

The Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments

What is the 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.

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

During the transitional phase, the Advisory Board will consult within the province of vacancy in order to seek candidates for the Senate. These consultations will be undertaken to ensure that a diverse slate of individuals, with a variety of backgrounds, skills, knowledge and experience desirable for a well-functioning Senate are brought forward for the consideration of the Advisory Board.

Subsequent to the transitional process, an open application process is to be established to allow Canadians to apply for appointment to the Senate.

The Advisory Board will assess 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 two provincial members of the Advisory Board from the province or territory of vacancy are appointed following consultations with the province or territory.

If a province or territory does not wish to participate in suggesting members of the Independent Advisory Board, provincial or territorial members for that jurisdiction will be selected by the federal government.

How long is each member’s term?

Federal members of the Advisory Board will each serve for two year terms and the provincial or territorial members will each serve for one year terms. However, the initial terms of the first federal members appointed will vary 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.

How can Canadians engage with the Advisory Board and what will the Advisory Board do to reach out to Canadians?

During the transitional phase, the Advisory Board will undertake broad consultations within the province of vacancy to ensure that a diverse slate of individuals, with a variety of backgrounds, skills, knowledge and experience desirable for a well-functioning Senate are brought forward for the consideration of the Advisory Board. This could include consultations with groups which represent Indigenous peoples and linguistic, minority and ethnic communities, provincial, territorial and municipal organizations, labour organizations, community-based service groups, arts councils, and provincial or territorial chambers of commerce.

Subsequent to the transitional process, an open application process will be established to allow Canadians to apply to the Advisory Board for appointment to the Senate.

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?

Under the transitional process, it is expected that the Advisory Board will provide its recommendations to the Prime Minister in late February 2016. Appointments should be made shortly thereafter to immediately reduce partisanship in the Senate and improve the representation of the provinces with the most vacancies. The remaining vacancies will be filled later in 2016 through the permanent process.