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FAQ: 10 questions about the Senate

What is the Senate?

The Senate is the upper chamber in Parliament that studies, amends and rejects or approves legislation passed by the House of Commons. It also investigates national issues and represents regional, provincial and minority interests.

Committees account for much of the Senate’s activities. On average, more than 50 bills are examined and 50 special studies are undertaken each year.

Each committee is unique in subject matter and purpose. Some committees rarely examine legislation, while others focus almost entirely on bills. There are currently 19 Senate standing committees.

How many members sit in the Senate?

There are 105 Senate members.

What’s their party standing?

Of the 105 Senate members, 57 are Conservative and 39 are now independent. There are currently nine vacancies.

How many Senators are women and men?

Fifty eight are men and 38 are women.

What’s their average age?


How are Senate members chosen?

Members are appointed by the governor general at the recommendation of the prime minister. They can sit until they turn 75.  Stephen Harper has appointed 51 people.

How long have Senators served on the Hill?

•    32 members have served 15 or more years.
•    13 have served more than five but less than 10 years.
•    50 have served less than five years.

How much do Senators earn?

A Senator earns $135,200 a year, is entitled to a government pension and each member has served on average about eight years and seven months. Each member also gets an office budget and is reimbursed for expenses.

Click here for the quarterly report for each member’s expense claims.

Why do people want Senate reform?

The Harper government has asked the Supreme Court of Canada to advise whether it can unilaterally impose nine-year term limits and set up a process for “consultative elections” of Senate nominees.

It has also asked the top court to advise whether it can outright abolish the Senate.

What’s required to abolish the Senate?    

Senate abolition would require unanimous consent of the provinces and Parliament, and term limits would require the approval from seven provinces representing half the population.

Click here to read more about the case.

With files from The Canadian Press and Government of Canada