OTTAWA – The prime minister has chosen seven new senators to fill vacancies in Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario.
The roster includes Justice Murray Sinclair, who led the Truth and Reconciliation commission, Paralympian Chantal Petitclerc and the long-time civil servant who headed Justin Trudeau’s transition team when the Liberals took power last November.
That man, Peter Harder, will also become the government’s representative in the Senate to help shepherd legislation through the upper chamber.
Trudeau chose the new appointees from a list provided by an advisory board set up by the government in January and their names will now be sent to the Governor General for the formal appointment.
“The Senate appointments I have announced today will help advance the important objective to transform the Senate into a less partisan and more independent institution that can perform its fundamental roles in the legislative process more effectively — including the representation of regional and minority interests — by removing the element of partisanship, and ensuring that the interests of Canadians are placed before political allegiances,” Trudeau said in a statement.
The other four new senators are Raymonde Gagne, former president of Universite Saint-Boniface in Manitoba, former Ontario politician and United Way CEO Frances Lankin, longtime multiculturalism and diversity advocate Ratna Omidvar and former Quebec journalist Andre Pratte.
All will sit as independents.
The seven appointments reduce the number of vacancies in the Senate to 17.
Former prime minister Stephen Harper stopped appointing senators in 2013, the year the upper chamber found itself mired in a spending scandal.
The Conservatives currently hold 42 seats in the upper house and technically the Liberals have 26, although Trudeau ejected those senators from his caucus in 2014 in a bid to pare back partisanship.
Thirteen other senators also currently sit as independents.