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Liberals seek new approach to Senate amid legislative roadblocks

Liberals seek new approach to Senate amid legislative roadblocks
From CBC - January 13, 2018

After two years of a relatively lacklustre legislative agenda, the Liberal government is taking a second look at how it engages with the chamber tasked withgiving billssober second thought.

For the first time, the Liberal government invited its representative in the Senate, Sen. Peter Harder, to its cabinet retreat for briefings this week, as it fine tunes outreach efforts to senators of all political stripes.

That's just one step it has taken as it looks to improve its lobbying efforts amid a new spirit of independence in the upper chamber.The government has also instructed the bureaucracy to bolster itscabinet briefingsto include tipson how to pass bills into law in the new Senatewhere senators are not necessarily loyal to the government.

Among Liberal insiders, there is a developing consensus that the increasingly independent Senatesomething that came about largely because of their own doingis partly to blame for the comparatively small number of government bills that have received royal assent since the Liberals were elected in 2015. Delays and amendments, by senators on all sides of the chamber, have left some bills on the order paper for months on end.

Now, two years before a re-election bid, the Liberals want to get more legislationincluding the cannabis bill, something they need passed before aplanned July 1 legalization datethrough the Senate in a more timely manner.

Whilehistoricallythe upper house has spent far less time studying bills than the Commons, that convention has been challenged during this parliamentary session.

We have done really, really big things, and we have done them in ways that respect Parliament, that have a more independent Senate, that yes, perhaps pose certain challenges in terms of the pace of things through the House,- Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister

Trudeau himself acknowledged this week that Senate changes have resulted in some delays to the Liberal agenda.

"We have done really, really big things, and we have done them in ways that respect Parliament, that have a more independent Senate, that yes, perhaps pose certain challenges in terms of the pace of things through the House," he said in aninterview onCBCRadio in Halifax Tuesday.

It was a sentiment Trudeaurepeated at the retreat's closing news conference Friday.

"We have seen over the past two years a tremendous transformation and improvement in the Senate, less partisanship, more independence but at the same time there is certainly a need to figure out new ways of doing things."

While Trudeau said he welcomes Senate "reflections" on legislation, he said the government and senators need to work together to "deliver the important things Canadians expect."

To that end, Harder was summoned to the Liberal cabinet retreat in London, Ont., this week, the first such meeting for the nominally independent senator who is tasked with ushering government bills through the upper chamber.

Harder, unlike virtually every other past government leader in the Senate, is not a member of cabinet and is not party to all discussions around the cabinet table, where ministers decide how best to proceed on important matters.

Time allocation considered for pot bill

Briefing notes

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