The Senate’s Review of Bills from the Commons, 1997-2015

Andrew Heard


This article examines the Senate's role in the legislative process, traditionally described as providing sober second thought. Data on the Senate's treatment of bills already approved by the House of Commons were compiled and studied for the period 1997 to 2015 to reveal: how many Commons bill were amended by the Senate; how many were not passed by the Senate; how long it took for the Senate to consider Commons legislation; and whether the Senate takes a more activist approach to bills that were subject to time allocation in the Commons. The results of this analysis provide several insights for suggestions to improve the Senate’s role in reviewing bills passed by the lower house. Important differences are found between the treatment of government-sponsored bills and private members’ bills, with the latter far less likely to make it through the Senate before the end of a session. Possible bottlenecks in the Senate’s committee stage are also highlighted as an area which needs to be addressed.


Senate; legislation; legislative review; reform; parliament; performance; bills;

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125