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Forty-third Parliament Welcoming Remarks

Honourable senators, I would also like to welcome everyone back to the Senate for the start of the Forty-third Parliament. While I’m sure we all enjoyed the pomp and ceremony of last week’s Speech from the Throne and the presence of many VIPs in our chamber, I must say it is nice to return to more familiar surroundings this afternoon, and it is nice to see His Honour in his proper chair. May I also take this opportunity, on behalf of the Independent Senators Group, to congratulate you on your reappointment to this important position.

Colleagues, in the months since we rose in June 2019, all of us have been busy in our respective regions doing outreach, meeting with community leaders, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders to talk about the work of the Senate and collecting information on the needs and challenges of our communities in order to bring them back to this chamber so we can advance some of these issues in the Forty-third Parliament. It is inherently our job to represent our regions. I was so proud, as I reviewed the news clippings through the summer, to learn of all our colleagues who were doing this work with such diligence.

It’s particularly important that we remember our role in representing the less-well-represented on this day, which is, of course, the seventy-first anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a document that has a very strong Canadian pedigree, and one to which this chamber in particular pays special attention in our deliberations.

I want to again welcome our new colleague, Senator Loffreda, and I will take this opportunity to welcome Senator Bellemare back to the ISG. If I may, I would also like to recognize the contribution of our colleagues who left the Senate or who retired this summer: Senators Andreychuk, Demers, McIntyre, Neufeld and Pratte.

The impact of our retired and departing colleagues will be long remembered and long cherished.

I want to also take the opportunity to recognize and celebrate the outstanding work of Senator Harder, who served not only with effectiveness and efficiency as the Government Representative in the Senate through the Forty-second Parliament, but also did so with grace, dignity and class. The fact that we had such a successful last sitting of Parliament, getting through so much legislation, making as many amendments as we did and doing all of that without the government having to resort to time allocation, is particularly impressive.

I think that owes much to the work of Senator Harder and to, of course, his two able colleagues, Senator Bellemare and Senator Mitchell. It was a pleasure working with you, Senator Harder, in the leaders group. It was a pleasure working with Senators Bellemare and Mitchell. We hope you will stick around for a long time because we continue to look forward to working with you on other issues.

Colleagues, there has been some movement in our ranks over the last little while, which Senator Plett has already described. However, these movements are trivial compared to the fact that whatever group or whatever caucus we may sit in, we are, first and foremost, senators of the Upper Chamber of Parliament and we remain colleagues one and all.

To the new group that has been formed, the Canadian Senators Group, I bid a very warm welcome. I want to express the willingness and desire of the Independent Senators Group to work closely with the CSG, and particularly leaders Senator Tannas and Senator Verner.

At the start of a new Parliament with relatively little government business on our Order Paper, we have an opportunity to take a closer look at the rules and practices of the Senate so that we can try to improve where improvements are needed. In particular, I believe that there can be progress made in the area of increasing, enhancing and entrenching the equality of all senators and the equality of all Senate groups.

I believe there is an opportunity for us, particularly in the first few weeks and months of the new Parliament, to look at how we can also better improve the functioning of our Senate so that we can be a chamber that takes all the time we need to deliberate, to make decisions and to debate, but do it in a way that makes good use of our time. I look forward to having these further discussions in the weeks to come.

Let me conclude by saying that it’s a delight to be back and we’re very much looking forward as the ISG to working together with all the groups and with all senators. I wish us a very successful Forty-third Parliament.