Roundup: Dealing with problematic senators

While the focus one on one senator’s words regarding residential schools yesterday, a bombshell dropped late in the day with the Senate Ethics Officer’s report into allegations that Senator Don Meredith had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl, and that will no doubt fill the airwaves tomorrow. But while everyone is baying for blood, let me offer a few bits of context.

First, with Senator Beyak and her remarkably clueless statements about residential schools, no, the government cannot ask for her resignation as the NDP are demanding they do. The Senate has institutional independence in order to act as a check on government, so they are powerless. As for the demands that the Conservatives kick her out of caucus, that might do more harm than good because at least within a caucus, she can be managed and hopefully do less harm, and perhaps guided into some education on the subject rather than simply cutting her loose and empowering her to keep making this an issue. And while I think her statement is odious, I also don’t think she meant malice by it, but rather that she is utterly clueless by virtue of framing the issue entirely through her Christianity, and that’s a world view that she’s entitled to hold, no matter what we may think of it. (And seriously, don’t make her a martyr for her religious beliefs). So while I get that there are a lot of people who want to perform outrage and demand her head, I think everyone needs to calm down a little and think through what they’re demanding.

As for Meredith, the report now goes to the Senate ethics committee, but given that the Senate isn’t sitting for the next two weeks, we’ll have to be patient. There are already demands that he be removed, but without a criminal conviction, that’s very difficult to do, and the police opted not to charge him for this (possibly because the complainant stopped cooperating with the police, but I’m not 100 percent sure on that fact, so take it with a grain of salt). With the Ethics Officer’s report, however, one could hope that the police could reopen their investigation. That said, removing a sitting senator without a criminal conviction is almost impossible. There is the possibility that the Senate could vote unanimously to declare his seat vacant, but it’ll be a high bar for other senators to reach that point, because they’re going to want to ensure that he gets due process (which Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau were not necessarily given at the time of their expulsion). But one can be sure that the Senate will want to take their time and deliberate on this one, so while it’s possible that we’ll see a suspension motion when they return, it could be a while before they decide on how to deal with him on a longer-term or permanent basis.

And barring that, maybe the Senate needs to consider a policy of phasing out certain senators…

Good reads:

  • Justin Trudeau told an audience in Houston that he will succeed on the energy file where his father and Stephen Harper both failed. No pressure there!
  • For some unknown reason, Jody Wilson-Raybould now wants a Supreme Court reference on the genetic privacy bill.
  • Justice Robin Camp has resigned from the bench, but not before Wilson-Raybould ballsed up an opportunity to have the Commons vote to remove him.
  • Wilson-Raybould also announced a new Superior Court judge for PEI, but couldn’t give specific timelines on more appointments to a Senate committee.
  • The government is looking to have a new “low-risk, high-talent” visa up and running by June to attract talent no longer willing (or able) to go to the US.
  • Senators have introduced an amendment to the citizenship revocation bill that they say offers due process to those being notified.
  • A CBSA report says that we could see even more refugee claimants trying to reach Canada as Europe tightens its borders even further.
  • Some 25 Canadian special forces troops will be headed to Niger to train local forces there, which is separate from a peacekeeping mission to Africa.
  • The government will look into how NATO defence spending is calculated, as including the Coast Guard and veterans like others do could bump up our figure.
  • Manitoba premier Brian Pallister says the federal government hasn’t yet given needed aid on dealing with incoming asylum claimants.
  • In the Saint-Laurent Liberal nomination, Yvonne James was defeated by 26-year-old teacher Emanuella Lambropoulos.
  • Here’s a look at the infiltration of Canadian political parties – especially conservative ones – by Men’s Rights Advocates.
  • Conservative leadership candidates, inadvertently or otherwise, have been giving interviews to a white supremacist “online journalist.”
  • Paul Wells writes eloquently about Chrystia Freeland and the realities of war in Europe being different from ours in Canada.

Odds and ends:

In response to student inquiries, the Ethics Commissioner says that if current rules had been in place in the 1800s, Sir John A would have run afoul of them.