Peter Harder to step down as Trudeau government’s point man in Senate at year’s end

Peter Harder announced Friday he will step down as the Liberal government’s representative in the Senate at the end of this year. He’ll continue to sit as an Independent senator.

Harder was nominated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March 2016, when the Liberal leader made the first of a continuing series of appointments meant to establish a non-partisan and independent Senate.

Previous prime ministers have appointed a “government leader” in the Senate to manage the governing party’s caucus in the upper chamber. In the absence of such a caucus — Trudeau formally disassociated the Liberal Party from the Liberals in the Senate in 2013 — Harder was styled as the government’s representative. 

Harder eventually named two deputies — former Conservative senator Diane Bellemare and former Liberal senator Grant Mitchell. Bellemare stepped down earlier this month. Mitchell joined Harder in stepping aside on Friday.

It was not immediately clear who will replace Harder. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office said only that a replacement would be named in “due course.”

Harder chaired Trudeau’s transition team after the federal election in 2015. He was, at the time, working in the private sector, after leaving a long career in the public service.

Harder worked as an aide to several senior Progressive Conservatives in the late 1970s and early 1980s before moving to the public service.

He was named the first executive director of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada and then served as a deputy minister in five different departments, including Industry and Foreign Affairs.