Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's attempt to reconstruct the Senate and stack his benches with independent senators continued today as he called four people to the Senate – filling in all remaining vacancies in the Red Chamber.
But despite his promise of a non-partisan nomination process, two of the senators named Wednesday's liberal backgrounds. One actually ran as a liberal and lost in the 2011 federal election. Another is a former liberal premier.
The Senate has been without a full complement of 105 members for more than eight years, partly because former Prime Minister Stephen Harper refused to appoint new senators under the expense scandal. Trudeau has in the meantime invoked an independent advisory process that has been moving slowly.
In a statement, the prime minister's office called the four new senate nominations: former liberal yukon premier pat duncan; Margaret Anderson, a native official from Northwest Territories; Nova Scotia mental health expert Stanley Kutcher; and celebrated Jamaica-born, Ontario-based neonatologist Rosemary Moodie.
Kutcher stood as the liberal candidate in riding Halifax but lost to the NDP candidate, Megan Leslie.
"These four new independent senators bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience that will greatly benefit the house and all of Canada. They know what it means to earn and dedicate their careers to making a difference in the lives of others. Working on them with questions that matter most to Canadians, "said Trudeau in a statement.
After these appointments, Trudeau has named almost half – out of 105 – of all seated senators.
The number of women and self-identified native senators has also climbed significantly under Trudeau. Women now represent 47 percent of the chamber. The number of native senators has doubled and stands at 10.
As it has been standard practice late, Trudeau employees are expected to sit as non-attached or independent members of the Senate and not as members of one of the party's caucuses – a part of the Prime Minister's alleged commitment to eliminating partisanship from the Chamber over time .
The independent senator group, the caucus, containing the majority of Trudeau's elections, is now the largest block in the Senate. While nominally independent, many of the Prime Minister's votes voted for the Liberal Government. But because they are free of party discipline, the independent senators have been more active
According to biographies provided by the Prime Minister's Office, Duncan served as Yukon's first female prime minister for the territory from 2000 to 2002. She was involved in reaching land use agreements with First Nations on the territory and transferring some powers from the federal government to the territory. She is said to have an "in-depth understanding of territorial and federal legislative processes."
Kutcher is described as a well-known expert in mental health and a leader in mental health research, advocacy, education and policy development. He serves as the Sun Life Financial Chair in adolescent mental health at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
His biographies do not mention his liberal partisan past.
Moodie is a neonatologist, clinical teacher and associate professor of pediatrics affiliated with SickKids and the University of Toronto. Moodie has a common pediatric practice, serving the Rexdale-Etobicoke and Jane Corridors corridors.
Anderson is an Inuvialuk, who has been an official for the Northwest Government for more than 20 years and works with communities and indigenous peoples across the territory. She was the director of community justice and police there.