Panel members sifting through applications for P.E.I.'s 2 vacant Senate seats

Panel members sifting through applications for P.E.I.'s 2 vacant Senate seats

Two Islanders are on the five-person committee that is currently narrowing down the choices for P.E.I.'s two vacant seats in the Senate of Canada.

Sue Fraser, a longtime City of Charlottetown employee and former parks and recreation manager, and Scott Annear, general manager of trucking company Morley Annear Limited, are both going through the applicants and choosing which names they think should be at the top of the list presented to the prime minister.

"When I look at the Senate and the important role it plays at the federal level, I think it's pretty amazing that I have this chance to contribute, to make sure that we have really strong representation at the table for Prince Edward Island," said Fraser.

P.E.I. has been allocated four seats in the Senate since the province joined Confederation in 1873.

One of those seats has been vacant since Mike Duffy retired in 2021 at the age of 75, as is mandatory. Another became vacant this past March when Diane Griffin retired.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Current P.E.I. senator Brian Francis said he's concerned with the amount of time it's taking to fill the two vacancies.

In an email to CBC News, Francis wrote that he hopes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will announce the new appointments soon.

"In the meantime, I will continue to work hard and closely with Senator Percy Downe for the benefit of Prince Edward Island," wrote Francis. "We may be the smallest province, but our voices are no less important."

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Fraser said there is a "healthy number" of applicants from P.E.I. — "which is wonderful news, that we have so many people interested in becoming one of our next senators."

She said the committee members recently received tablets in the mail with all of the applicants' information.

"I think we have some great options before us and I'm pretty excited to get some names forward and see how it all rolls out."

The committee must review the applicants and be ready to submit their chosen names for consideration to the other committee members by the end of November.

Members will then decide on their final recommendations and submit those names to the prime minister's office.

CBC News
CBC News

Annear said he is feeling a bit overwhelmed and humbled by the applications he's looked at so far.

"It's going to be a tough decision to make," said Annear. "I've always had an interest in politics and I'm learning a whole different angle of it. It's a big learning experience."

Diversity, experience among criteria

Fraser said the committee members were given many factors to weigh when rating applicants, including diversity, experience, and gender equity.

"We want people to have different kinds of perspectives that they're coming to the table with, whether it's from their community work or whether it's from their profession," she said.

Another factor that was stressed during their committee orientation was the current gaps in the composition of the Senate, Fraser said. "These are the areas where maybe the Senate would be more robust if we had these kind of people at the table."

Fraser added that the next two weeks will be busy.

"It is a lot of work, but it's very exciting to be able to engage at this level in the democratic process," she said.