Skip to main content

The future of the Canadian Senate remains a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Will it evolve into a chaos of independent, self-directing senators? Some observers have said that soon the independent senators appointed under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will have a plurality in the Senate. But in what sense can they be considered – or consider themselves – as a party, unless all these single senators fuse, and consequently cease to be independents?

There is of course one common factor: Mr. Trudeau, who made the final choices, after an independent advisory board, itself chosen by the government. The new senators are praised as non-partisan, but they do seem to be the kind of people that the Prime Minister would like, i.e., small-l liberals. Who can blame him for preferring people he prefers?

One of Mr. Trudeau's choices is very likely to make a valuable contribution in Ottawa: Yuen Pau Woo, the former CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada.

Mr. Woo is ethnically Chinese but was born in Malaysia. He grew up in Singapore, a country with a mostly ethnically Chinese population. Singapore has been an influence on China's development, ever since the days of Deng Xiaoping. Mr. Woo is a notably shrewd, clear-headed observer of China, neither an apologist nor an antagonist.

Another particularly interesting (or unexpected) choice for the Senate is Patricia Bovey, an art historian who has written on Canadian artists who have worked in several different media, not only painting and sculpture, but also textiles and ceramics; she specializes in Western Canadian art. One almost regrets that her future senatorial duties might delay a book of hers in progress: Impacts and Turning Points: The Western Voice in Canadian Art. She has also been involved in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, but that hardly sounds like ordinary political patronage – even if her late husband was a Liberal MP.

Mr. Trudeau has gone through a number of phases on the Senate over quite a short period, starting with his bizarre expulsion of the Liberal senators from his own caucus, for no particular offence; they soon reconstituted themselves as the "Senate Liberals."

Let's hope this will result in the last version, at least in this Parliament, of liberal and Liberal groupings. Enough is enough.

Interact with The Globe