OTTAWA – Senator Bob Runciman departs the Senate this week with a solid record of legislative accomplishment.
Runciman was appointed to the Senate on January 29, 2010, by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper. His last day is August 9. In his 71/2 years in the Upper Chamber, he has chaired two committees, including the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee for the last five-plus years.
“It was a great honour to chair the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee, which traditionally has been one of the busiest on Parliament Hill,” Runciman said. “And it was a real honour to have the opportunity to work on that committee with people such as Serge Joyal and George Baker, whom I’ve admired for years.”
During his time as Chair, the committee dealt with a number of significant pieces of legislation – a rewriting of the law relating to prostitution, changes to the law governing accused who are found not criminally responsible due to mental illness, major changes to federal election law, the enactment of a federal victims’ bill of rights, and the passage of a law to deal with physician-assisted suicide, along with dozens of other pieces of legislation.
“It was always interesting and frequently emotional, but our committee always got the job done,” Runciman said. “A highlight for me was the release of our report on court delays in June of this year. That was the result of extensive study and I think it can have a real impact if governments listen to what we said.”
In addition, Runciman sponsored 12 bills that went on to become law, including three of his own. The most recent was an amendment to the Customs Act to streamline reporting procedures for boaters entering or re-entering Canadian waters.
Runciman said he has two big disappointments: the failure to move toward an elected Senate and the failure of his efforts to convince officials to provide appropriate treatment for inmates in the federal prison system who are suffering from serious mental illness, such as the late Ashley Smith.
“I had success at the provincial level as Ontario’s correctional minister, but in Ottawa, it’s been like banging my head against the wall.”
Runciman said he has not decided what comes next, but is adamant he is not retiring.
“There are many areas of public policy where I think I can make a contribution and I intend to do so,” he said.