Conservative senators have the majority they need to prevent Liberal government legislation from becoming law, but, in these early days of the new regime, both the government and Tory senators say they foresee collaboration rather than conflict.
After years of turmoil heightened by scandal, in which the usefulness of the Senate has been called into question, senators will be given a chance to prove their worth to Canadians, who have listened with increasing interest to calls for abolition.
Dominic LeBlanc, the Liberal House Leader, said in a telephone interview with The Globe and Mail on Monday that the government fully understands the constitutional role demanded of the Senate and intends to allow senators to do their jobs.
"My colleagues in the cabinet will be asked to meet with the various Senate committees looking at legislation and work collaboratively with them," Mr. LeBlanc said. "We are absolutely open to working with the Senate in a way that strengthens the legislation or improves it and we expect that there will be a fairly constant back and forth."
Mr. LeBlanc said both Conservative senators and members of the independent caucus of Liberals in the Senate, whose ties to the Liberals in the House of Commons were severed nearly two years ago by party leader Justin Trudeau before he was Prime Minister, have told him informally they want to work effectively with the new government.
Claude Carignan, the Leader of the Conservatives in the Senate, said the members of his caucus have no intention of deliberately delaying or obstructing government bills.
"We will study the legislation and try to improve it if we need to," he said, "and we will work in a constructive way."
If the Liberals pass legislation in the House of Commons to undo actions of the previous Conservative government, "we will see what kind of changes they move and we will work to amend or improve the bill in good faith, but not in ideological ways," Mr. Carignan said. "Our intention is to be helpful to Canadians."
Senate insiders say Conservative senators are willing to soften the hardline political stand they took during the years when Stephen Harper was prime minister. Many were appointed by him and owed him some allegiance. But, now that he is gone, that obligation has ended or at least diminished.
Mr. Carignan acknowledged that his members may now feel more free to act independently. "The senators will maybe vote more in their own views and they will have more opportunity to vote for what is good in their minds," he said.
Conservative Senator David Wells said in an e-mail that he does not believe his approach to his job will change.
"In government, while I supported most government legislation, the place to amend certain bills I didn't fully agree with was in committee. I did that while I was with the governing party and I don't expect that to change in opposition," he said. "That said, part of the opposition requirement is to hold the government to account and I will do that when necessary."
But the independent Liberal senators say they are prepared to do that too.
"I don't think we're going to hesitate from calling in witnesses and calling in ministers to make sure that we are satisfied, and we've got a comfort level, that it's good legislation," Liberal Senator David Smith said. "I don't think we'll be robots."
One thing that has yet to be decided is whether the Liberal government will appoint a leader in the Senate to introduce legislation and to take questions during a Senate Question Period. Mr. LeBlanc said he hopes to meet with Mr. Carignan as well as Liberal and Conservative senators in the near future to hear their ideas for structuring the working relationship between the House and the Senate.