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This article was published 19/1/2016 (2024 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — A well-known Manitoba musician and the woman who led the United Way in Winnipeg for almost two decades will be at the forefront of helping choose Manitoba’s next three senators.
Heather Bishop and Susan Lewis were among seven people named to the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments Tuesday. The group is tasked with coming up with nominees to fill five Senate vacancies by the end of February, including two each in Manitoba and Ontario and one in Quebec.
They will help fill another 17 vacancies, one of which is in Manitoba, by the end of the year.
"I was surprised and very pleased," said Bishop, who lives in Dominion City, when she got a call from Democratic Reform Minister Maryam Monsef’s staff last week.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau intends to reform the Senate by turning it into a non-partisan chamber. The new appointees will not represent a political party, and the government will have a representative but no cabinet minister in the Senate. That representative will be chosen from among the first five new senators appointed.
Lewis said she would not have agreed to participate if there was any sense of partisanship to the process, noting as the president of the United Way for almost 20 years, being non-partisan was a critical thing for her.
Like Bishop, Lewis hadn’t considered the possibility of being named to the board, although she had heard about it before Monsef’s office called her last week.
The board will have a chair, Huguette Labelle, the emeritus governor of the University of Ottawa, and two federal members, Indira Samarasekera, former president of the University of Ottawa, and Daniel Jutras, the dean of law at McGill University.
Two members will be added from each province where there are vacancies to be filled. On Tuesday, that meant two members were appointed from each of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba. They will meet for the first time on Thursday as a group, although Lewis cannot attend that meeting. After that, they will begin consultations within each province to seek out possible names. Suggestions will be vetted before names are agreed upon and forwarded to Trudeau for approval.
Trudeau is not bound to name senators from the board’s recommendations but he has promised he will.
Bishop said she has been on the advisory board for the Order of Manitoba for several years, which will help her in this new task.
"That certainly has given me a finger on the pulse of the people in this province," she said.
The government criteria for new senators includes leadership experience, proven integrity and ethical behaviour, a knowledge of Canada’s Constitution, the legislative process and the role of the Senate, and have high level experience at the federal or provincial level or have a lengthy record of service in the community or a profession. Priority is to be placed on appointing indigenous, female and visible minority candidates.
Lewis said as soon as she accepted she began to think about whom she might approach about it but hasn’t given it really serious thought yet.
Bishop said she hopes to ferret out some of Manitoba’s "best and brightest" who maybe aren’t immediately obvious to many.
"I feel my role is to find the unsung heroes," she said.
Manitoba has been without half of its complement of six senators since August 2014. Currently Manitoba senators are Independent Liberal Maria Chaput and Conservatives Don Plett and Janis Johnson.