Liberals seek new approach to Senate amid legislative roadblocks – Politics

After two years of a relatively lacklustre legislative agenda, the Liberal government is taking a second look at how it engages with the chamber tasked with giving bills sober second thought.

For the first time, the Liberal government invited its representative in the Senate, Sen. Peter Harder, to its cabinet retreat for briefings this week, as it fine tunes outreach efforts to senators of all political stripes.

That’s just one step it has taken as it looks to improve its lobbying efforts amid a new spirit of independence in the upper chamber. The government has also instructed the bureaucracy to bolster its cabinet briefings to include tips on how to pass bills into law in the new Senate — where senators aren’t necessarily loyal to the government.

Among Liberal insiders, there is a developing consensus that the increasingly independent Senate — something that came about largely because of their own doing — is partly to blame for the comparatively small number of government bills that have received royal assent since the Liberals were elected in 2015. Delays and amendments, by senators on all sides of the chamber, have left some bills on the order paper for months on end.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured at the Liberal cabinet retreat in London, Ont., Friday, acknowledged this week that Senate changes have resulted in delays getting their bills passed. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Now, two years before a re-election bid, the Liberals want to get more legislation — including the cannabis bill, something they need passed before a planned July 1 legalization date — through the Senate in a more timely manner.

While historically the upper house has spent far less time studying bills than the Commons, that convention has been challenged during this parliamentary session.

‘We’ve done really, really big things, and we’ve done them in ways that respect Parliament, that have a more independent Senate, that yes, perhaps…

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