The Independent Senators Group (ISG) now forms the largest bloc of Senators. Similar to an ordinary political caucus, they have a leader, referred to as a faciliator, plus a deputy facilitator, and more. They meet and discuss strategy but their votes are not whipped; in other words, they are free to vote as they wish.
The decline of so-called partisan senators in the Senate is viewed by some as a step toward a modernized chamber, devoid of political rancour. Others view the Senate as a political institution in its own rite, and therefore its members are more accountable if they belong to a particular party caucus, since being in a caucus requires forms of discipline.
The ISG Senators describe their legislative role as follows:
- Creating a record for judicial use in interpretation of legislation
- Suggest improvements by way of amendments
- Scrutinize legislation
- Conduct research and compile evidence
- Interpret evidence
- Apply experience & knowledge to the evidence
- Debate bills
- Make amendments
These goals are not inherently different than how a “political Senator” might operate. Though it can be argued that in an ideal world, independent senators will be more objective, without being under the thumb of a party leader.
All but three of these senators were appointed by Prime Minister Trudeau since 2015. The other three are Senators are former Liberal senators, and are Jaffer, Massicotte and Ringuette.
The ISG facilitator is Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain; the deputy facilitator is Senator Tony Dean. Senator Chantal Petitclerc holds the title of “Chair of Group Deliberations” while Senator Pat Duncan is the “Chamber Works Coordinator.”
The Conservative Senate Caucus
With no new Conservative Senate appointments since the days of Prime Minister Harper, and with retirements, the Conservative Senate Caucus is gradually dwindling in number.
These Senators sit in the National Conservative Caucus and form the Official Opposition in the Senate. There is coordination between Conservative MPs and Senators on key positions and approaches to legislation.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate is Senator Don Plett, and the Deputy Leader is Senator Yonah Martin. The Whip is Senator Judith Seidman, and the Caucus Chair is Senator Rose-May Poirier.