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Harper picks new Alberta senator who backs reform in the Red Chamber

Scott Tannas, CEO of Western Financial Group


Canada's newest senator is an entrepreneur from Alberta who favours Senate reform and was appointed after Bert Brown, the government's point man on the issue, retired last week.

Scott Tannas, founder and president of a financial services company in High River, Alta., finished second in a provincial Senate election process held last year. First-place finisher Doug Black was appointed to the Senate in January after Liberal Senator Joyce Fairbairn retired early for health reasons.

"I am very honored to have been given this opportunity by the Prime Minister and the voters here in Alberta," Mr. Tannas wrote Monday in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. "As I have stated before, Senate reform will be a very high priority for me."

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper called Mr. Tannas "a remarkable Canadian" in a statement announcing his appointment on Monday. "I look forward to working with Mr. Tannas in Parliament. His strong business background and deep knowledge of Alberta are sure to benefit the Senate," Mr. Harper said.

Mr. Brown, who has championed Senate reform since he was appointed to the Red Chamber in 2007, said he believes Mr. Tannas and two other recent Alberta Senate appointees are well-positioned to carry on his advocacy for an elected Senate that does a better job of representing the provinces.

"I've got really sharp individuals who are taking my place," Mr. Brown said. "I'm pretty sure they're going to go forward with the same things."

Mr. Tannas has said in the past that he believes the Senate needs to change and, in late 2011, he told the National Post that he supported efforts by the Conservative government to make the Senate more effective. "I hope to be one of the ones to help make it happen," he said. "If we can't make it effective, we should take steps to abolish it."

The newly appointed senator is known in his hometown of High River for turning the small company he founded in 1996 into a major financial services firm. The company, Western Financial Group, became a subsidiary of Desjardins Financial Group in 2011.

Mr. Tannas will join a Senate that has been plagued by scandal in recent months over senators' expense claims and allegations that some members do not regularly live in the provinces or territories they are supposed to represent. Four senators have had their expense claims sent to an external auditor, three for the housing allowance they collect and a fourth for her travel expenses.

Earlier this year, the government asked the Supreme Court of Canada for a legal opinion on several Senate reform options, including fixed term limits.

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