Tory Senator quits caucus over Andrew Scheer’s social conservative views

Conservative Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais scrums with media outside a committee in Ottawa on Monday, June 8, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Matthew Usherwood.

Conservative Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais is leaving his party’s caucus over concerns about leader Andrew Scheer’s socially conservative views and will join a newly-formed group of independent senators in the upper chamber.

In a statement Monday, Dagenais said Scheer’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage led to a “mass exodus” of support in the province of Quebec, effectively ending the chances of electing more candidates there.

There’s no possibility things will change in time for the next election, Dagenais said.

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“We have wasted a unique opportunity and the result will be the same the next time if the current leader and those who advise him remain in office as is the case at this time,” Dagenais said.

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He said his opinions would make it inappropriate for him to continue to participate in the Conservative caucus, but he intends to remain a member of the party.

The Canadian Senators Group was formed earlier this month by 11 senators seeking to ensure regional issues get their due.

The majority of its members have links to the Conservative party, but the group also announced Monday that Sen. Percy Downe, who was appointed as a Liberal, was joining its ranks.

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Downe had previously been one of the last members of the Senate Liberal caucus.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had severed all ties with the group in 2014, and upon forming government had appointed senators only as independents.

Last week, the remaining members of the Liberal caucus had also rebranded themselves as the Progressive Senate Group but with the departure of Downe, will no longer meet the minimum number of members to maintain official caucus status.

The Senate website on Monday no longer listed any independent Liberals.

Instead, the site lists 12 senators as non-affiliated plus the 13 that are part of the Canadian Senators Group, 23 Conservatives and 51 with the Independent Senators Group.

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