The Senate has voted to allow news cameras and photographers into the chamber for a special question period in February, when three cabinet ministers will be under the spotlight over the contentious Liberal bill legalizing recreational cannabis.
It will be only the second time the Senate permits direct broadcast coverage and news photography in the chamber for the special question periods that began under the current government — and the first such event featuring three cabinet ministers answering questions on just one bill.
The Senate passed a motion approving the special measures shortly before it adjourned for the winter recess and holiday season late last Thursday night.
The motion came from the government’s leader in the Senate, Peter Harder, following a series of discussions with Conservative and Liberal Senate leaders. The talks included fhe “facilitator” of the growing group of Independent senators, Sen. Yuen Pau Woo.
The precedent for television coverage under the new Senate system was established in June, 2016, when Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould fielded a barrage of questions over a bill that was even more controversial — the Liberal government’s medically assisted death legislation, C-14.
That time, media access was limited to two television cameras and two photographers. The motion this time allows that “television cameras and photographers be authorized in the Senate Chamber to broadcast and photograph the proceedings with the least possible disruption.”
Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould will lead the government delegation: Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Toronto MP Bill Blair, the former police chief who has shepherded the bill in the Commons and has served as a public advocate of cannabis legalization as Wilson-Raybould’s parliamentary secretary.