Leader of the Government in the Senate (Canada)

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Template:Canadian politics

The Leader of the Government in the Senate is a Canadian cabinet minister who leads the government side in the Canadian Senate and is chiefly responsible for promoting and defending the government's program in the Upper House. The government leader's counterpart on the Opposition benches is the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.

Early Canadian cabinets would include several Senators who would be answerable to the Senate for government actions and in the nineteenth century it was not considered unusual for a Senator to be Prime Minister as was the case with Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell. Abbott and Bowell both found it difficult to lead the government from the Senate, however, and over time the perceived legitimacy of the Senate declined. Accordingly as time progressed it became less common for Senators to occupy prominent positions in Cabinet. From 1935 on it was typical for a Cabinet to have only one Senator who would have the position of minister without portfolio and act as Government Leader in the Senate.

In 1969 the position of Leader of the Government in the Senate became an official cabinet position with the appointment of Paul Joseph James Martin.

Occasionally Senators may still hold senior cabinet positions in order to ensure regional balance in Cabinet if the governing party is unable to elect members in a particular region or province as was the case of the Progressive Conservatives under Joe Clark in 1979 or the Liberal Party of Canada under Pierre Trudeau in 1980. However, it is usually the case that the Leader of the Government in the Senate is the sole Senator serving in Cabinet.

The responsibilities of the Leader of the Government in the Senate include:

  1. Planning and managing the government's legislative program in the Senate
  2. Answering all questions for the government during the Senate's Question Period
  3. Maintaining relations with the Opposition on all matters concerning Senate activities
  4. Working with the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to ensure the effective coordination of the government's legislative programme.

The government side in the Senate is the party that forms the government in the Canadian House of Commons. This means that the government party in the Senate may have fewer seats than the Opposition, particularly when a general election results in a new party forming government.

See List of Canadian Leaders of the Government in the Senate

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