Roundup: Expulsion isn’t rocket science

All day, we’ve been told that Senate clerks are “scouring the constitution” to find a “loophole” that will allow them to expel Senator Don Meredith, and even when they get former law clerks on television who’ve said clearly that yes, the Senate can do this, they still try to go “a ha, but they never did with…” name a scandalous former Senator, and in those cases, they resigned before the Senate had a chance to expel them. Suffice to say, a whole lot of reporters are being deliberately obtuse in order to create a false sense of drama around this.

The simple fact of the matter is that Parliament is self-governing, and it has the powers it needs to expel members if need be. Those are parliamentary privileges, and they have been exercised in the past in the Commons, as James Bowden’s research has shown, and those privileges would indeed extend to the Senate. It’s not sexy or rocket science, but people need to calm down and let the process work itself out.

Adam Dodek says that the Senate needs to move quickly on dealing with Meredith if they hope to regain the public trust. And that may be the case, but we also don’t want to be too hasty, given the ham-fisted and poor manner in which the suspensions of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau were handled, and the truth of the matter is that the Senate is on March break. The ethics committee is coming back a week early to deal with the matter, so they are moving quickly but they can’t simply act rashly and in the heat of the moment, which I think will be the danger in order to keep from invoking the ire of an impatient public, egged on by a media demanding that the story move ahead quickly before people lose interest.

Meanwhile we’re also seeing a lot of second-guessing about the role that Meredith played within the Independent Senators Group, and how he was described as having a “leadership position” within it. Indeed, Meredith was elected to one of four “coordinating positions” within the nascent quasi-caucus, in its early days after the first round of independent appointments when the group was still getting on its feet and Meredith had more legislative experience than most of the members of the group. That being said, he had very little actual standing within the group and was certainly not viewed as any kind of actual leader by anyone I’ve spoken to. I have sympathy for their position that he was innocent until proven guilty and that it took the Senate Ethics Officer two years to reach her conclusions, but on the other hand, we could still see this train on the tracks. It’s too bad the ISG didn’t insulate themselves a little better from this, but in all, I don’t think the damage looks as bad from out here.

Good reads:

  • The government is moving ahead with the acquisition of “interim” Super Hornets, and has but their plans in writing for the next steps to get a deal by year-end.
  • CSE says they need more long-term stable funding to keep pace with technological changes.
  • The Correctional Investigator says that the use of segregation is finally in sharp decline.
  • Oh noes! The government is spending money to print copies of the budget!
  • One year later, the Star looks at how Thomas Mulcair was “accidentally” ousted as party leader.
  • Ontario union leader Sid Ryan says he’ll throw his hat in for the NDP leadership if the current contenders aren’t “left” enough. Good luck with that.
  • Former Veterans Ombudsman Pat Stogran is also apparently contemplating  a run, railing about the “elites” in the Conservatives and Liberals.
  • Terry Glavin comprehensively traces the path of the Russian-shopped story about Chrystia Freeland’s grandfather.
  • Susan Delacourt writes about how the Phoenix pay fiasco has eroded faith in the system, but I say we need to remember that the public service created the problem.
  • My column this week digs into that discussion paper on making the Commons “more efficient” and why we treat such suggestions with suspicion and scorn.

Odds and ends:

It turns out that Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson is still looking into Nigel Wright’s $90,000 payment to Mike Duffy.

Programming Note: I am travelling to Toronto for a book reading/signing, so there won’t be a new roundup post for the next two days.

PS – If you need a Loonie Politics subscription to read my columns there, use promo code Smith and it’s $40/year instead of $50.

One thought on “Roundup: Expulsion isn’t rocket science

  1. Expulsion itself may not be rocket science, and Parliament may have all the mechanisms it requires. But I suspect a seamless expulsion which can successfully sidestep any and all possibilities of litigation for wrongful dismissal may well BE rocket science.

    And that’s the goal here, isn’t it? Avoiding not only the unwanted attention of Sen. Meredith’s behaviour and continued presence, but also the unwanted attention of a protracted court case.

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