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Canadians Want the New Senate to Continue, Poll Shows


For immediate release

Canadians Want the New Senate to Continue, Poll Shows

Ottawa, April 10, 2019 - Canadians strongly support the changes to the Senate initiated by the Trudeau Government in 2016 and want a future government to continue the reforms to the appointments process that have created an increasingly independent Senate, according to a new national public opinion poll. Only three percent of Canadians want a future government to return to the old ways of appointing senators, while 77 percent of Canadians want to carry on with the new appointment process. However, while overall negative impressions of the Upper Chamber have softened, the Senate still has some work to do to bump up its standing with the public, according to the poll. “Canadians think the Senate is headed in the right direction and that the new Senate should continue into the foreseeable future,” said Senator Donna Dasko, who commissioned the poll. “But we can’t be complacent. There is still work to be done to improve public perceptions.” The poll is based on a national sample of 1,000 Canadians surveyed between March 29 and April 1 2019 by Nanos Research. April 2019 marks the three-year anniversary of the first set of Senate appointees using a new selection process promised by the Prime Minister shortly after taking office in 2015, with the goal of creating a more independent and less partisan Senate. Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer has vowed to scrap the independent selection process and return to a partisan Senate if elected. When asked whether three aspects of the new appointment process represent a “good change” or “not a good change” for the Senate, a total of 70 percent of Canadians think that an open application process is a good change, and 83 percent say the same about an independent advisory board that reviews and assesses the applications. As well, 81 percent describe the fact that “new senators are not active in a political party and sit as independent members in the Senate” as a good change; only five percent think the change toward independence is not good. When asked whether the reforms together will make a difference, a majority of 59 percent say the changes will improve the Senate. Three percent say the Senate will be worse as a result and 24 percent say the reforms will make no difference. Canadians want a future government to keep promoting an independent Senate. Over three-quarters of Canadians – 77 percent – want a future government to keep these changes to the appointment process while only three percent want a future government to go back to the previous ways of appointing senators. The poll shows, however, that overall impressions of the Senate remain more negative than positive. A total of 37 percent of Canadians have a positive or somewhat positive impression of someone who is a senator of Canada, and 46 percent have a negative or somewhat negative impression. Critical comments include that the Senate is ineffective or not useful, that it is appointed, and that senators have been involved in scandal. While negative impressions still outweigh the positive, the movement in opinion over three years from a 2016 poll shows an improvement in public views. Positive impressions have increased by 12 points, from 25 percent in 2016 to 37 percent today. Negative impressions of senators have declined dramatically, from 65 percent in 2016 down to 46 percent today. Mentions of scandal have declined. “The improved view of the Senate may be the result of growing awareness of the new-look Senate along with fewer Canadians who remember the Senate spending scandals of a few years ago” said Senator Dasko. In other poll findings, 39 percent of poll respondents say they have heard or read something about changes that have been made to the Senate in recent years; most of these mention independent non-partisan senators, independent Liberal senators, and changes to the appointment process. When asked specifically, 56 percent say they have heard about independent senators. There are few regional, age or gender differences in opinion about the changes to the Senate. Young Canadians ages 18 to 34 tend to be more unsure about whether the changes are good. Televised coverage of the Senate chamber began on March 18. The poll shows that 21 percent of Canadians say they have watched a broadcast of a Senate committee or chamber meeting. Viewing is slightly higher in the Prairies and slightly lower in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces.

The poll methodology and question wordings are attached.


For more information, or to speak with Senator Dasko, please contact: Emily Horonowitsch Office of the Hon. Donna Dasko

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