The Senate has sat for 104 days since November, 2021, but about 25 senators on average have missed each of the 37 legislative votes over that time, according to an analysis by The Globe and Mail. And several members have cast fewer than four of the 19 votes since Parliament resumed sitting in the fall of last year.
During the pandemic, the Senate and House of Commons instigated hybrid voting, which concluded in June for senators, but which remains in place for members of the House. While working remotely, an average of about 72 senators cast their votes electronically. There are currently 15 vacancies in the 105-seat chamber.
The data show that the number of senators missing votes has increased since hybrid voting ended and senators were required to be in the chamber when legislation is about to be passed or referred to committee for study.
Many of those skipping votes since late 2021 were named to the Red Chamber by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He promised to reform the Senate by selecting non-partisans to the legislative body. The job pays a basic $164,500 annual salary and tax-free housing allowance of up to $26,850. Senators retire at age 75 with a pension.
The post includes an office, staff, money for research and general office expenses, free rail and air travel. A senator is docked $250 a day if they fail to show up, but they can claim sick days or say they are on official Senate business to avoid losing money. Senators are allowed 21 personal days each parliamentary session.
After the holiday break, the Senate resumed sitting in late January, but only 58 senators were present for the final vote Feb. 2 on Bill C-11, which makes sweeping changes to the Broadcasting Act. Of the 19 votes on various pieces of legislation since October, 58 senators or less were present for 12 of those votes.
Missing the vote on C-11 was Jim Quinn, who sits on the transport and communications committee, which studied the bill. He was in Florida when the final vote took place.
Mr. Quinn, appointed by Mr. Trudeau, was one of at least three senators who missed the Senate’s first week back after the break, which ran from Dec. 15 to Jan. 30. Larry Smith, a former Conservative now sitting with the Canadian Senators Group, was in Barbados and Trudeau appointee Sabi Marwah said he missed the first week as well because he was dealing with a family matter in India.
Senators Smith and Quinn said they booked their holidays before Christmas and they didn’t expect the Senate to come back until the second week of February. The Senate calendar was set on the same schedule as the House of Commons for members to return to work at the end of January.
“I prebooked because it was our 50th wedding anniversary,” said Mr. Smith, who added that he hasn’t taken a day off in more than 12 years.
Mr. Quinn, who was present for nine of the 19 votes since October, said he might not be in the chamber because he is meeting people or at committee hearings. Committees are suspended during votes. “I don’t think I have missed too many votes,” he said.
Former Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart, who retired as the country’s top bureaucrat after a serious bout of cancer, was appointed to the Senate in September, 2022. He has voted once since October. Between October and Feb. 2, the Senate held 19 votes on legislation.
Mr. Shugart said in a statement that he is missing Senate votes for “health reasons.”
Other Trudeau appointees also missed votes. Gigi Osler, appointed in September, showed up for six votes since October, while Yvonne Boyer and Rosemary Moodie voted twice. Margaret Dawn Anderson was present for four votes and Wanda Thomas Bernard made it for five votes.
Senators Moodie, Anderson and Thomas Bernard said they had health issues. Ms. Boyer said she was on medical leave and Dr. Osler, a surgeon who was sworn in Oct. 18, was sick for six days and operating on patients for three of the missed votes.
Those missing legislative votes include veteran senators, appointed by former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper. Patrick Brazeau, now sitting as a non-affiliated Independent, has shown up for one vote since October and another seven since December, 2021.
Conservative Senator Percy Mockler made it for four votes since October, while former Tory cabinet minister Josée Verner, now sitting with the Canadian Senators Group, voted five times. Since November, 2021, Mr. Mockler voted 16 times and Ms. Vernier cast 17 votes out out of a total of 37.
Mr. Brazeau also cited health issues and noted that The Globe’s inquiry had aggravated his PTSD.
“Rather than taking a medical leave of absence for an extended period of time, I decided to do the best I can with what I’ve got knowing I would likely miss votes,” he said in a statement.
Mr. Mockler’s office said he ”missed votes because of some of his health challenges and in preparation for surgery early January.”
A spokesperson for Ms. Verner said she would not comment on her voting record.
Conservative Rose-May Poirier and former Ontario NDP MPP Frances Lankin, who was appointed in 2016 by Mr. Trudeau, did not show up for votes since October. Ms. Poirier said she was on sick leave while Ms. Lankin was grieving over the loss of her husband who fell suddenly ill in the fall.
Conservative Senator Leo Housakos and Trudeau appointees Tony Loffreda, Raymonde Saint-Germain, Raymonde Gagné and Bernadette Clement had perfect voting records. They cast 37 votes since November, 2021 and 19 since October.
“I’m a workaholic so maybe there is a fault there. I haven’t taken a real vacation in five years,” Mr. Loffreda said.
Mr. Housakos said he shows up to vote because he believes it is a privilege to sit in the Senate. “It’s important that we be here and participate in the votes. It’s our obligation,” he added.
Both senators declined to say what they thought of their colleagues who miss so many votes.
With data analysis from Carys Mills
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article referred to Senator Larry Smith as a Conservative. In fact, Sen. Smith is a former Conservative now sitting with the Canadian Senators Group.