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Ian MacDonald: Despite Scandals, Senate Does Good Work

cmittee-roomDuring the 2012 Alberta Senate Nominee Election, one of the issues that I campaigned on was the need for Senate Reform. Recent events have demonstrated the importance of improving accountability in the Senate, and I am strongly committed to working towards that goal. The Senate must be reformed so that it can continue to fulfill the essential roles of providing sober second thought for legislation and provincial representation in Canada’s Parliament.

A third highly valuable aspect of the Senate is the investigative work done by its committees.

A recent column by Ian MacDonald, Editor of Policy Magazine, explored the role of the Senate as “Canada’s think tank.” MacDonald notes the influential studies that have been conducted by Senate committees, including the two on which I sit: Banking and National Finance. Often such studies help to frame the public debate around an issue, and their recommendations can be translated into policy, regulation, or law through the endorsement of government. These reports fulfill a similar role to royal commissions or task forces, but cost less for taxpayers by using existing resources and delivering results in a shorter time frame.

A recent example of the value of such investigative work is the National Finance Committee’s report on Canada-US price differentials. That report provided the basis for provisions in the 2013 Budget that offer tax relief on baby clothing and sports and athletic equipment. Senate committees have also recently released reports on, or are currently studying: Métis identity, oil and gas transportation in Canada, a study of the new veterans charter, and post-approval monitoring of pharmaceuticals.

So my commitment is to ensure that the Senate continues to do work that matters to Albertans and operates accoountably and effectively.

Doug Black

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