Senate

By Mussell, Mary | Canadian Parliamentary Review, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Senate


Mussell, Mary, Canadian Parliamentary Review


The Speech from the Throne delivered by the Governor General in the Senate Chamber on October 5, 2004 signified the opening of the First Session of the Thirty-eighth Parliament. The first weeks of this new session had none of the intensity of the final weeks of the previous session. The expectation of an election call during the Third Session of the Thirty-seventh Parliament strongly influenced the Senate's working pace. It forced the Government to move quickly to complete its legislative agenda and thrust the Senate into an immediate legislative workload. Such was not the case at the beginning of the Thirty-eighth Parliament. While the Senate waited to receive Government legislation from the House of Commons, its committees sought approval of budgets for special studies and attended to other matters.

Committees

The Senate gave several committees orders of reference to begin special studies while others were granted permission to continue special studies which had not been completed during the previous Parliament.

When the Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committee tabled its sixth report with final recommendations for reform and renewal of the Canadian health care system in October 2002, it was with the intention of continuing an examination of other health-related issues. On October 7, the Committee was given authority by the Senate to continue its work on mental health and mental illness, the first in a series of thematic reports that will be produced by the Committee.

The Transport and Communications Committee began its investigation into the impact of public policy on Canada's news media early in the Thirty-seventh Parliament but was not able to make its first interim report until the final days of the Third Session. On October 19, the Committee received permission to continue this important work, the first media study undertaken by the Senate since the Special Committee on Mass Media reported in 1970.

Similarly, on October 19, the Senate approved the mandate referred to the Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources Committee to address issues first taken up in the spring of 2004. The Committee plans to present a succession of reports on different matters related to its terms of reference. On the same day, the Agriculture and Forestry Committee also received its authority to continue its study of agricultural issues. It was under this broad mandate that the committee examined issues related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Canada and tabled an interim report on April 15.

The terms of reference for the Banking, Trade and Commerce Committee which allow it to continue its inquiry into the present state of the domestic and international financial system were approved by the Senate on October 20. The Committee has already reported on a variety of topics including small business, investor confidence and bank mergers.

The National Security and Defence Committee will also continue its work on a series of studies investigating the security of Canadians. Its most recent report, tabled on March 30, examined the preparation for national emergencies. In this new session the Committee will focus on a review of the Department of National Defence. In addition, the Senate gave the Committee approval to resume its study of veterans' services and benefits.

The Human Rights Committee received authority on November 3 to begin two new studies and to continue work on another two. …

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