CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – With pressing issues such as the potato ban to discuss, the PEI’s longest-serving senator says it is important to have all hands on deck in the upper chamber.
Percy Downe told the SaltWire Network on March 21 that late. Diane Griffin’s retirement last week leaves the province significantly deficient.
“Just last week, we all went to a meeting about the potato wart with CFIA officials,” Downe said in a telephone interview from Ottawa, referring to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which last fall imposed a trade ban on PEI potatoes following the discovery of potato warts on two farmers’ fields.
Griffin’s last official day in the Senate was March 17, the day before her 75th birthday, the mandatory age for retirement.
Her absence on top of Mike Duffy’s retirement in 2021 leaves the PEI with two vacancies in the Senate.
“There are definitely enough issues that come up on a regular basis to address, so that’s why it’s important to get these vacancies filled,” Downe said.
Senators are appointed by Canada’s Governor – General based on recommendations from the Prime Minister.
The following is a look at PEI’s senate status:
Don Desserud, professor of political science at UPEI, said there has been some consistency around the appointment of senators since Stephen Harper took over as prime minister in 2006.
Desserud said Harper was opposed to the appointment of senators and was in favor of an elected senate.
“Trudeau (on the other hand) does not see the Senate as a protectionist, which is a positive step forward,” Desserud said, referring to current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “But as a consequence he does not have any haste. This is not appropriate… two seats are vacant and it is not useful at all.”
Desserud added that if another province had 50 percent of their Senate seats vacant, there would be an outcry.
“It’s not that the Senate does not play a useful role. We have had and will continue to have hard-working senators. When you are a small province, you need every hand on the deck, every vote you can get. These are important people. for us, and to leave their vacancies for so long? I do not think it is malicious.… There is a process in place. They just need the green light to get started and the names will come out. “
Downe said the PEI’s four senators are an important complement to the four MPs.
“We have eight votes, and it’s important that they are filled as much as possible so people can split the work up and get started.”
Downe also praised Griffin, who despite retiring still attended some committee meetings on March 21 in an attempt to help with the workload.
The SaltWire Network also spoke briefly with Griffin on March 21, but she was on her way into a meeting and was not immediately available for an interview.
The Ottawa Private Council Office told the SaltWire Network on March 21 that work is continuing to establish an independent advisory committee to the Senate’s appointments to the PEI and other jurisdictions. Provinces and territories have had the opportunity to participate by recommending individuals from their jurisdictions to serve on the Board.
Appointments to the advisory board will be made and announced in due course. Once the board is established, they will decide when to start reviewing applications, and updates will be posted on their website, the private council office said.
Dave Stewart is a reporter for the SaltWire Network on Prince Edward Island.