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Josée Verner's health has kept her from the Senate for much of the past year. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Josée Verner's health has kept her from the Senate for much of the past year. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Politics Briefing

Senators’ attendance records online for the first time Add to ...

POLITICS BRIEFING

It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your senators are?

The Senate has always tracked the attendance of its members, because they can be financially penalized or even booted out if they fail to show up to work too often. (In the 1990s, Andrew Thompson stretched those rules about as far as they could go by showing up about 14 times over a decade.)

But the only way one could see the attendance record was by going to the Senate offices in person and looking at a paper copy. That meant only the most enterprising journalist (or one with a spare afternoon) ever bothered to look at how often senators showed up to the Red Chamber.

No more. As part of its drive to become more transparent after the controversies of the last couple of years, the Senate has posted the attendance records of its senators online for all to see. (It also posted more details about contracts the chamber has paid for.)

The most obvious takeaway is that, yes, most senators have shown up for the chamber’s sitting days over the past year. As well, it’s clear a few members are struggling with serious health issues that are preventing them from being able to do their jobs. Some have been public with their battles: former NHL coach Jacques Demers hasn’t been in the Senate since suffering a stroke in April. Others, like former Harper cabinet minister Josée Verner, who has only attended the Senate once in the past year, have been more quiet.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS MORNING

> The federal government may have given its blessing to a pair of pipelines, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over yet: the political salesmanship is only just beginning and plenty of legal challenges await. Liberal MPs in the Vancouver area are worried they’ll face voter backlash, and so far Justin Trudeau has given them plenty of space to air their grievances. Environmentalists are skeptical that the government will be able to keep its emission-reduction targets with the approval of the pipelines. Oil company shares are doing well, though.

> Doctors are incensed with a change the Liberal government made to small-business taxes that could cost them thousands of dollars each year. “Physicians will leave the country because they’ll see Canada as not very attractive,” one advocate warned.

> The task force created by the Liberals to study marijuana legalization handed in their recommendations yesterday — likely favouring heavy regulation — but the report won’t become public for weeks. Conservatives are accusing someone on the task force or in government of leaking the report, to account for a surge in cannabis company stocks two weeks ago.

> A parliamentary committee dominated by opposition MPs is set to recommend today that any electoral reform should be accompanied with a referendum. Liberal MPs, who hold a minority of seats on the committee, will release a dissenting report.

> And a small “Not my MP” movement is stirring in Ontario MP Kellie Leitch’s riding, due to her opinions in the Conservative leadership race.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Globe and Mail editorial board: “But if the Trudeau government is right on the broad strokes of the [pipeline] policy, it still has work to do on the details. Last year, it said it would change the environmental review process for pipelines so government would be a referee, not a cheerleader. Yet Tuesday’s announcement was as politicized as ever. The federal cabinet, not a regulator, gave the red light to Northern Gateway and imposed a ban on tankers in northern B.C. waters.”

Kathryn Harrison (Globe and Mail): “Put bluntly, the business case for the Trans Mountain expansion project is predicated on a world of unchecked global warming. In approving infrastructure that promises to increase Canada’s bitumen exports for decades to come, the federal government is not reconciling the environment and economy but, rather, placing a bet against the success of the Paris climate agreement.”

Chantal Hébert (Toronto Star): “It is a rare government decision that involves a lot of predictable political pain for little obvious electoral gain. For better or for worse, the approval by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline falls into that category.”

Andrew Coyne (National Post): “By positioning himself between those to his left, who insist that reducing carbon emissions in the decades to come precludes selling oil in the here and now, and those to his right, who suggest we should sell our oil without also taking measures to reduce our emissions — or even that we can — the prime minister has wrong-footed both of the main opposition parties.”

Don Braid (Calgary Herald): “Rachel Notley persuaded Albertans to vote NDP last year, a task everybody thought was impossible. Her next selling job will be harder. She’s going to B.C. to win acceptance in Vancouver, Burnaby and the Lower Mainland for the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Her deeper mission, not mentioned officially, is to persuade B.C. New Democrats to ease off their ferocious opposition.”

Les Leyne (Victoria Times Colonist): “[The Kinder Morgan pipeline] won’t be the defining issue [in next year’s provincial election], but the environmental lobby’s communication clout will make it one of the highest-visibility ones. They’re about to find out if their issues are as important to voters as they think they are.”

This is the daily Globe Politics newsletter. Sign up to get it by e-mail each morning and let us know what you think.

Compiled by Chris Hannay. Edited by Steven Proceviat.

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