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Broadcasting of Senate Chamber Proceedings

June 2nd, 2016

Hon. Art Eggleton: Honourable senators, my question is to the Chair of Internal Economy, who I believe is also the Chair of the Subcommittee on Communications. It is in that regard I particularly want to ask the question.

Yesterday was a remarkable day in this chamber, with a very high level of questioning and response from government ministers over a four-hour period of time. It attracted a lot of notice, a good kind of notice, because some of the tweets that came out afterwards were very supportive of the work that senators were doing yesterday.

We also had two cameras in here, which is very unusual. The only time I have seen cameras in the 10 years I have been here is at the opening of Parliament, the Throne Speech or some other special ceremonial occasion, but never during a session of the Senate, albeit a Committee of the Whole.

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One comment, for example, came from a reporter, Michael Den Tandt, and he said:

. . . Senate back-and-forth today has been more substantive than any conversation I've heard in the HoC maybe ever.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Eggleton: Jordan Press said: "Cameras in the Senate. Hopefully they stay."

This has been the subject of a lot of discussion for some time, and I don't expect cameras are suddenly going to appear in the Senate over the next couple of years as we prepare to move out of here to the special facility across the street. But when we come back, hopefully that will all be part of normal day-to-day proceedings in here, to be decided, of course.

Meanwhile, a small step was taken yesterday. Can we add to that small step, I ask the Chair of Internal Economy and Chair of the Communications Committee, to invite them back again? I understood they came via request from the press gallery and that, in fact, CPAC used its mechanisms to get it on air and a lot of people did see it. In fact, I saw a portion of it for a while and it was impressive, with only two cameras.

Could we invite them back? We are about to get into second reading debate and next week third reading debate on Bill C-14, and occasionally there might be some other major pieces of legislation that I think would be of most value to have broadcast. I think it does a lot for the reputation of this institution.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Eggleton: My question to the chair is to that effect: Will he invite them back?

Hon. Leo Housakos: Thank you, Senator Eggleton, for the comment, I guess, more than a question, comments that I wholeheartedly concur with.

As he knows full well, a couple of years ago we engaged in a review of the whole Communications Directorate in the Senate at the initiative of this chamber. A detailed report was tabled at Internal Economy and in this chamber, the blueprint report, with a number of recommendations, many of which have been implemented. I think many senators have seen the result in how we have been communicating with the press and with the public, which has taken us a few steps forward, and there are more to come.

One of the recommendations in that blueprint report, after consultation with the National Press Gallery, with stakeholders and with many senators this this chamber, was indeed to install cameras in the Senate as a whole. We decided to be prudent at the time and we recommended to Public Works that they wire the new temporary Senate at the Conference Centre to have the capacity to broadcast.

I agree, Senator Eggleton, that yesterday was a watershed moment, because we live in an era where digital and visual communications are far more important than even audio. The Communications Directorate monitored on Twitter and on Facebook the reaction of the public and the press, and it was overwhelmingly positive. Countless numbers of emails have come in to the Communications Directorate also pointing out how impressed they were with the quality of the questions, the quality of the answers and the general decorum in this institution.

I do agree, but to answer the question, of course it is a decision of the Senate and it's a question for this chamber to decide when and how long and in what context we will allow cameras in the chamber. Internal Economy has already given approval to the recommendation. I know the Modernization Committee is also weighing in and looking at the pros and cons.

From my point of view, I am in agreement with Senator Eggleton in that the chamber should eventually come to the realization that we should put out for public display all the wonderful work we do.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Eggleton: Well, we are in agreement going back and forth here, but how do we get them back here for the rest of the debate on Bill C-14? There was a motion — I don't know if it came from Mr. Harder or not — with respect to going into Committee of the Whole, and there was a subclause in there about television cameras. Nobody said anything about it; everybody was happy for it.

So maybe Senator Harder could invite them back or you could do so. Could one of you please put a motion on the Order Paper to invite them back?

Senator Housakos: I think we should allow leadership to continue to have discussions, along with the Speaker. If they come to consensus, they can bring it to the floor and we will all weigh in on it at that point in time.