For immediate release
Senators delving deeper on pandemic response
OTTAWA, April 27, 2020 – There has never been a more important time for non-partisan oversight of the government’s decisions and activities, says Senator Yuen Pau Woo, facilitator of the Independent Senators Group (ISG).
“From a public policy perspective, we are in a very fast-moving environment,” said Woo. “As the government races to respond to the economic dislocation caused by COVID-19, certain groups may fall through the cracks. The Senate standing committees that have been charged with oversight of the government’s COVID-19 response are in a position to provide non-partisan scrutiny in a way that gives voice to groups that have been neglected in the current suite of programs, as well as minorities in general, and to the unique interests of the regions that senators represent.”
In the wake of the pandemic, the Senate of Canada has activated two official standing committees: National Finance as well as Social Affairs, Science and Technology. An agreement was also struck between groups in the Senate to eventually create a special COVID-19 review committee.
In recent weeks, senators have also established several informal working groups related to the pandemic.
“I am very proud of how so many senators have taken initiative and mobilized during this crisis,” said Woo. “In addition to being deeply connected to the response in their own communities and regions, senators of all stripes are finding innovative ways to complement the work that is being done by the government.”
Woo said that the Senate is, by design, less anchored in the here-and-now, and therefore better positioned to adopt a longer-term perspective. He believes that working groups formed by ISG members are well positioned to look beyond the immediate crisis and offer ideas for a sustainable recovery.
For instance, Woo pointed to an ISG working group focused on helping Canadian small businesses weather the current economic shutdown and transition to innovative ways of operating their businesses within the new reality that has emerged.
Another ISG working group is looking at a guaranteed livable income for all Canadians, an idea that is gaining traction in many jurisdictions.
Yet another ISG working group is serving as a support network and bridge between artists and the government.
Recently a fourth ISG working group was formed to consider future international dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as Canada’s bilateral relationships with the United States and China, and a potential retooling of the international development assistance system to reflect new realities like food and health insecurity.
“The ISG working groups are addressing big questions that have major implications for our country,” said Woo. “We need to think beyond the horizon and plan accordingly, especially at a time when the government has its hands full with the immediate response to the pandemic. The Senate is uniquely suited to this role.”
For more information, please contact:
Independent Senators Group (ISG) Secretariat
Established in 2016, The Independent Senators Group (ISG) is committed to a non-partisan Senate and the modernization of the Upper House of Canada’s Parliament. With 50 members, the ISG is the largest parliamentary group in the Senate. Composed of independents not affiliated with any political caucus, ISG Senators work cooperatively but act independently.