Disgraced Sen. Don Meredith is resigning from the Senate rather than wait to see if his colleagues expel him for engaging in a sexual relationship with a teenage girl.
The Senate was poised to vote as early as Wednesday on a Senate ethics committee report, which last week concluded that Meredith is unfit to serve as a senator and recommended that the upper house take the unprecedented step of expelling him.
But in a statement Tuesday, Meredith says he recognizes that the Senate is more important than his “moral failings.”
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He says he’s decided to move forward with his life, with the full support of his wife and children, and expresses the hope that his absence from the chamber will allow senators to focus on their good work.
READ MORE: Expel Meredith, Senate ethics committee says
His lawyer, Bill Trudell, confirms that Meredith has decided to resign, although he doesn’t specifically say so in the statement.
“I am acutely aware that the upper chamber is more important than my moral failings,” Meredith’s statement reads.
“After consulting with my family, community leaders, and my counsel over the past several weeks, I have decided to move forward with my life with the full support of my wife and my children. I am blessed to have had their unconditional love and support throughout this ordeal. It is my hope that my absence from the Senate will allow the senators to focus their good work on behalf of all Canadians.
“The path of expulsion being considered by my colleagues will have major implications for the Senate of Canada. This is a constitutional fight in which I will not engage.”
He will keep his $25,000 yearly pension, based on six years of service – a percentage calculation based on his $145,000 salary. The payments will begin when he turns 55.
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The committee’s recommendation followed an explosive report from Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard earlier this year.
Ricard concluded that Meredith, a 52-year-old married Pentecostal minister, had failed to uphold the “highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of senator” and acted in a way that could damage the Senate itself.
She said Meredith began a relationship with the girl when she was just 16 and progressed from flirtatious online chats to fondling, sexually explicit live videos and, eventually, to sexual intercourse – once shortly before she turned 18 and twice after.
Ricard also concluded that Meredith had abused his position as a senator to take advantage of the teen.
Meredith had called the affair a “moral failing” but insisted he did not have intercourse with the girl until after she turned 18.
Conservative Sen. Denise Batters said it was “strange” to see a resignation letter that doesn’t use the word resignation.
“He didn’t behave honourably, and he didn’t resign honourably,” she said of Meredith. “And all I would say, I guess, is good riddance.”
Most senators who spoke to reporters Tuesday said they were relieved to see Meredith step aside voluntarily.
Conservative Sen. Don Plett said he still wants to see a formal letter of resignation, but “I’ve said from the get-go that I would like to see him resign so we didn’t need to deal with it.”
Independent Sen. Marilou McPhedran said this is an opportunity to modernize the Senate and examine how allegations of misconduct are handled.
“I would think it probably has (affected the Senate’s reputation),” she said.
But another independent senator, Anne Cools, said she always had concerns about how the “brutal” process surrounding Meredith unfolded, and planned to oppose any motion to expel him.
“These are the sorts of events that will be recorded forever historically and be associated with the individual,” Cools said.
Meredith’s resignation, she added, “reflects at least an opportunity for the senator, who I would suspect is very downtrodden by all of this, to assume some degree of control for his life.”
*With files from Monique Scotti