Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s move to sever partisan ties with the senators under his party’s banner was in good faith, if not a little simplistic, said Hugh Segal, an outspoken Conservative senator.
“I don’t have any question as to the good faith of the Liberal leader and his approach on this,” Segal said in an interview on The West Block with Tom Clark. “I think it’s sincere and direct. I think over time, it might appear to be a little simplistic. We’ll have to wait to see what questions emerge.”
Trudeau this week booted all 32 Liberal senators from his caucus, describing his move as the most significant and concrete step ever taken to reform Canada’s scandal-plagued Senate.
It was a surprise move aimed at reducing partisanship in the upper chamber and restoring the Senate’s intended role as an independent chamber of sober second thought.
Hours after Trudeau’s announcement, the senators who’d been turfed from his caucus emerged from a closed-door meeting, many praising the leader.
On its face, little had changed—a majority of those senators banded together, designated themselves the “Liberal Senate caucus” and chose James Cowan, who’d been the Liberal leader in the Senate, as their leader.
Still, Segal said the move allowed Trudeau, in the least, to announce a position on Senate reform, separating himself from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and NDP leader Tom Mulcair.
“I think it’s already begun to work politically, in a partisan sense, from the point of view of his standing on the issue,” said Segal, who is preparing to leave the Senate later this year. “I take the idea that was put forward by Mr. Trudeau as essentially constructive, and I think it gets to some of the core questions of what the upper chamber in a federation is supposed to be doing.
Senator George Baker, who was in the room Wednesday morning when Trudeau broke the news, also applauded the move.
“Justin Trudeau walked into a prearranged meeting with senators at 9:05. And around the table sat the senators; these self-proclaimed bagmen, the people who’d been with the party for years, who’d stood by his side,” Baker said, recalling the scene where Trudeau looked each senator squarely in the eye and told them they were no longer members of the National Liberal Party, no longer had any influence over the party’s policy conventions, no longer welcome to help organize election campaigns, and no longer welcome to raise money.
“So has Mr. Trudeau done his job? Yes,” Baker said. “He’s laid it on the line—Liberal senators, you are no longer Liberal senators. You are independent—and that’s what the Senate is designated to be.”
With a file from The Canadian Press
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