Trudeau-appointed senator resigns from post during election
Senator André Pratte formally announced his resignation from the senate while election results are being broadcasted.
He made his announcement public in a letter published to Twitter.
In his letter, Pratte says that he specifically chose this time to resign, rather than earlier, because he did not want his resignation to impact the election in anyway and so that he did not distract from the campaign
He also says that his 3 ½ years on Senate have shown him that he lacks both the skills and motivation to follow through with the task Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau had given him when he was appointed in 2016.
He says that it is saddening to betray the trust Trudeau had in him, but that it would be a greater betrayal to continue on in a position for which he is unfit.
Andre Pratte is announcing his resignation from the Senate as the federal election results are rolling in.
The Independent senator from Quebec posted his resignation letter on Twitter to explain his decision.
“In any professional journey, there can come a time when we realize that we simply do not have the skills and motivation required to accomplish the task we have been entrusted with,” writes Pratte. “After three and a half years in the Senate of Canada, I have come to this conclusion.
“It saddens me to betray the trust that you [the Right Honourable Julie Payette] and the Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, had placed in me. But it would be even more of a betrayal to continue performing a task that I cannot accomplish to the level of excellence expected.”
The senator behind a new faction in Parliament’s upper chamber says #WEXIT was “tangentially” behind this, the latest attempt at non-partisan independence in the Canadian Senate.
In an interview with The Post Millennial, former Conservative senator Scott Tannas and leader of the nascent Canadian Senators Group said the move is geared toward having a say in committee picks, non-partisan research, and also suggested it could be a bulwark against “group-think”.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in this group at all, who thinks Wexit is a great idea, or it’s time has come. We’re all there to fight for Canada,” said the Albertan senator. “But in the context of making sure our regions are protected and advanced.”
The Canadian Senators Group also includes Doug Black (Alberta), Robert Black (Ontario), Larry W. Campbell (B.C.), Stephen Greene (Nova Scotia), Diane F. Griffin (P.E.I.), Elaine McCoy (AB), David Richards (New Brunswick), Josée Verner (Quebec), Pamela Wallin (Saskachewan) and Vernon White (ON).
Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, referred to the appointed legislature that provides regional oversight for government bills with power to introduce laws unrelated to spending, as chamber for “sober second thought”.
However, in contemporary politics and on the Main Street circa 2019, opinions on the Senate range from a desire for greater accountability (some provinces like Alberta actually hold non-binding votes for senate-appointees), to its abolishment altogether.
And for nearly 150 years, senators were appointed by the sitting prime minister, and for the most part showed unbroken partisan loyalty to their caucuses. But that all changed in April 2014 when Trudeau cut existing Liberal appointees in the Upper Chamber from the national caucus.
The rookie leader had been at the Liberal helm for barely a year before making this nation-changing decision – one that Dale Smith, a parliamentary reporter and author of a book on how Canada’s Westminster government operates, describes as “a slow moving train wreck ever since.”
“It goes back to when Trudeau kicked out his senators and said it was about wanting more independence in the Senate, it was really more about a bunch of (spending) audits coming out,” Smith told TPM. “It was like killing two birds with one stone, independent senators and not dealing with any blowback the Auditor General finds.”
That report by Auditor General of Canada Michael Ferguson, delivered in June 2015 after examining 116 senators’ expenses, found 30 to contain inappropriate claims (more than a dozen senators opted for arbitration to square accounts) and referred nine to RCMP for further investigation. No charges from Ferguson’s determinations ever materialized.
However, his audit was launched over questionable living expenses claimed by Stephen Harper appointees Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy, as well Liberal Senator Mac Harb, that resulted in charges against all three.
The Crown ultimately withdrew prosecution of fraud-related charges against Brazeau (July 2016) and Harb (May 2016), shortly after Duffy beat four of 31 counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust that actually stuck and that the public prosecutor pursued at Ontario Superior Court.
Trudeau’s decision to abandon his Senate caucus occurred barely three months before Duffy was charged by RCMP, one of which included accepting a “bribe” from Harper’s then chief-of-staff Nigel Wright for $90,000 to cover disputed housing expenses. Strangely, Wright was never charged for tendering the cash.
After winning a majority government 18 months later Trudeau continued his senate-reform in January 2016, by way of Order-in-Council, establishing an advisory board to weed through applicants for “independents” to fill Senate vacancies.
By March of that year, the Independent Senator Group was formed; an amalgam of Trudeau’s original castaways and destination for new blood. It had also become haven for embattled Harper appointees tapped for the Senate, including Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin, who has now thrown her lot in with Tannas’ new venture.
But the senator from High River Alberta at the Canadian Senators Group vanguard, a former insurance agent whom Harper tapped for the Senate in 2012, distributes blame for the Senate’s current state of affairs evenly between the current prime minister and his antecedent.
“I saw the decision that Harper made not to fill 20-some senate seats he had (before leaving office). And both of those decisions, the one by Harper and one by Trudeau, had an enormous impact on where the Senate is today,” said Tannas when asked about the Trudeau effect.
“In my view, both things have accelerated what we’re seeing in the Senate now, to where we’re at a tipping point, where changes will become permanent changes.”
In rare public criticism of what’s come of the institution in the wake of Trudeau’s decision, Senate Director of communications Karine Leroux made the following comments about this recent turn of events in an email to TPM:
“We are currently living through the repercussions of Prime Minister Trudeau’s ill-thought-out idea of Senate reform. While he was leader of the third party opposition, Justin Trudeau miscalculated the need of having senators move forward the government legislation in the Senate. He failed to see the long term impact and implication of not recognizing the needs of having a Government Caucus and an Opposition Caucus. (Formation of the Canadian Senators Group) is the second example in the last two weeks that shows Trudeau’s ‘non-partisan and independent Senate’ isn’t working.”
The first example is the resignation of Trudeau appointee Senator André Pratte, who made his official intentions known on federal election night Oct. 21. His reasons: he could not fulfill his role “to the level of excellence expected”.
In the days following, Pratte penned an op-ed published by establishment media where the ex-senator blamed the Trudeau government for failing to codify rules of Senate independence in a regime that still included whipped Conservatives, and criticized Liberals for “exercising pressure on independent Senators so they vote a certain way.”
“One difficulty is that the new practices have not been enshrined in the rules of the Senate and in the Parliament of Canada Act. Consequently, it would be easy for a future government to return to the old system, where the Senate was a pale copy of the extremely partisan House of Commons,” writes Pratte.
“Another issue is that partisanship and the ‘party line’ are still very much present in the Senate. Conservative Senators are members of the national conservative caucus. They are whipped. Their agenda is to obstruct all government legislation, as much as the rules allow. And the rules allow quite a lot.”
A glaring example of “party line” Senators would be Liberal-friendly pollster Donna Dasko, appointed to the Senate by Trudeau in June 2018. Earlier this year, Dasko was slammed by Conservative senators for misusing her budget to commission a poll touting public support for Trudeau’s Senate reforms.
While the Independent Senators Group held an outright majority in the previous Senate, the emergence of the Canadian Senators Group resets the ISG’s balance of power to a plurality.
The so-called Independent Senators Group still holds 49 of the Senate’s 105 seats, but there remain 27 aligned with Conservatives, nine still representing as Liberals, six independents and 11 from the Canadian Senators Group. There are also three vacancies; one in Saskatchewan and two in Quebec.
From Tannas vantage, after nearly seven years in the Senate, his purportedly non-partisan CGS is a chance to get senate independence right. While the group welcomes additional members, it has pledged to cap membership at 25.
“We don’t all agree on our politics by any means. We are centrists most of us, centre-left or centre-right. But what does unite us is the approach to the job. We want good solid research that we can count on as being independent and fact-based that we can sandwich between the sales job from the government about why the bill is so wonderful…(and) from the Opposition about why it’s a terrible bill,” said Tannas.
“It will be up to us to work together to gather the facts, but come to our own views independently and to transmit those views, to be transparent about our decisions individually and be accountable individually, as opposed to in any kind of a group-think environment.”
It’s been nearly 100 years since a party that lost a federal election formed the government.
Since then, the clear political norm in Canada has been that the party with the most seats forms the government. And in most cases, when a leader of a party who was Prime Minister loses power, that leader resigns.
While minority governments often don’t last long, once again the convention has been that the party with the most seats remains in government until they lose a confidence vote, at which case there is a new federal election.
For nearly 100 years, that’s how we’ve done things here in Canada.
But now, the Trudeau Liberals and their media enablers are laying the groundwork for the destruction of those democratic norms, in a bid to remain in power even if they lose.
Let me say this as clear as possible: If the Liberals win fewer seats than the Conservatives, it would be insane, unacceptable, and anti-democratic for the Liberals to remain in power.
Just think about it:
The Liberals went into the election with a majority government. If they not only lose their majority but also lose so many seats that the Conservatives surpass them, then it will be an unmistakable message from the Canadian People that they want Trudeau gone.
For Trudeau to remain in power despite such a rejection from the Canadian People would be a disgrace, and would devastate any remaining faith Canadians have in our national democracy. After all, people would think “what difference does a vote make if you can defeat a government, and then that government stays in power anyway?”
Clearly, there is something very disturbing going on here as the results approach. As pointed out by J.J. McCullough on Twitter, the attempt to normalize the potential of Trudeau’s violation of Canada’s norms is crazy:
“These journalists are all “it’s normal, it’s normal!!” It is absolutely NOT normal. In 150 years of Canadian history, exactly ONE prime minister tried pulling this stunt (in 1925)—and it caused one of the single biggest democratic crises in Canadian political history.”
“I’m sorry—the media’s reporting on this idea that Trudeau doesn’t have to give up power if Scheer wins a minority has been pure propaganda. They never mention what a radical break with 94 years of precedent it would be. They just try to spin something deeply abnormal as normal.”
McCullough is 100 percent correct here. It is not at all normal for Trudeau (or any PM) to try and stay in power after being defeated.
If Trudeau loses and tries to stay in power, it will be anti-democratic, anti-Canadian, and all of us must speak out against it.
Heather Mallick thinks that if you are a young woman in Canada, that means you are vulnerable and need to be told how to think and who to vote for. Writing in The Star, she says: “Careful how you vote in Canada’s federal election on Monday, especially if you’re young and female. You are vulnerable. Think strategically.” She’s playing the game of identity politics by asking young women to come together and vote based on how they fear they may be treated as a group. This is a jarring, striking sentiment, but nowhere in the ensuing article does she back it up.
Instead of letting all young women know exactly how they are in danger, she goes on a tirade about how awful the United States is, how angry Americans all are, and how adept they are with violence. That this kind of violence will encroach on Canada is her fear, but again, she doesn’t back it up. She uses visceral language to play on emotions, instead of driving home facts. Further, she attempts to link Andrew Scheer to Trumpism without any evidence at all. It’s a dirty trick, and it confirms that she really doesn’t think much of her audience (especially the young women).
The kind of language Mallick uses to bemoan Trump and is similar to Trump’s approach to his political rivals. Using methods you condemn when employed by your opposition in order to uphold your own position is completely nonsensical, especially in this case because Trump is, essentially, his tactics.
Why would she caution young women and call them out as particularly vulnerable? Does she think they are not capable of considering all the factors, candidate positions, and making a decision based on those ideas and policy positions?
The goal is to keep young women cowering in fear about a future over which they have no control. It tells them that they should harbour doubt about their own ability to make choices. This is the kind of language we have been seeing at the forefront of so much of the social justice movement, and this style of discourse is one we’ve learned from the much-maligned Trump.
With regard to climate change, we are consistently told to behave as though our “house is on fire.” Angry climate activists glue themselves to pavement or buildings, block traffic, and generally make an unruly mess simply because they want to raise awareness about their position.
When racism, classism, and sexism are talked about, we hear that these things are getting worse. The only way in which these conditions can be said to be worse is that our expectations keep getting higher. There’s nothing wrong with high expectations, but we have to measure progress based on how far we’ve come, not on how far we’ve yet to go.
Instilling fear in young women, saying that they are particularly vulnerable to a change in leadership, is a fear-mongering tactic that hopefully most Canadian young women will see right through. Our vulnerability comes in mindlessly believing what we are told, and that acting in our best interests is something other people than ourselves can determine.
This kind of inflammatory hyperbole is an insult to independent free-thinking young women across the country. Action is never best undertaken in anger and fear.
So, I have my own message for young Canadian women: You are not weak. You are not vulnerable. You know better than to let some elitist Toronto-based think-piece specialist tell you who you are and what you should do.
You are strong and you are smart. Vote in accordance with your convictions. You got this.
This decade has been a deeply troubling one for the Bloc Quebecois. The humiliations of the 2011 and 2015 elections have made the party very plainly marked with nostalgia, not just for the days of Lucien Bouchard or Jacques Parizeau, but anyone who could lead the party without creating a factional divide or electoral thumping.
Until a few weeks ago, separatism, and the Bloc Quebecois along with it, had been considered dead. Although the 2015 election saw some improvement for the party, they still fell two seats short of official party status.
The Bloc’s abrupt frailty in this decade has been placed on their inability to stop banging on about separation and independence referendums. There is now an inertia in Quebec with separatism that the Bloc failed to perceive or adapt to. This, alongside Jack Layton’s folksy charisma cast the Bloc Quebecois into a lonely irrelevance.
The 2018 provincial election only seemed to confirm this diagnosis. The CAQ, which is composed of many ex-separatist politicians, stormed to power on a ticket that could hardly be bothered with separatism at all. The polling only corroborated this, with 82 percent of Quebecois now stating that separatism was a non-issue.
In many ways, the CAQ’s roaring success has served as a bitter lesson to the Bloc. Although separatism is indeed a “non-issue,” nationalism, and a desire for greater sovereignty certainly is not. Francois Legault’s CAQ capitalized on this sentiment, pledging to protect Quebec in Canada whilst creating demagogic policy (Note the secularism bill).
The efficacy of this strategy is plain. A year after Quebec’s provincial election, the CAQ remains a deeply popular party amongst the Quebecois, with a 74% approval rating.
The Bloc’s leader, Yves-François Blanchet, has evidently understood this new phenomenon. He has meticulously copied the CAQ’s 2018 manifesto and has defended the actions of Quebec’s government in the debates to an irritated Canada.
If the polling is correct, Blanchet’s plagiarism has been entirely successful. In national polls, the Bloc are nearly two whole points higher than their polling in 2015. And so, if Canada discovers there is no majority tomorrow, Blanchet may find himself as the kingmaker.
There are, perhaps, other explanations for the Bloc’s success. For the more cynical amongst us, their success has to do with the NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh. The NDP leader is, of course, the first minority leader in Canada’s history. Many have argued that Quebec is simply “just not ready” for a brown Prime Minister.
Nevertheless, if these polls are correct, and Blanchet’s Bloc Quebecois does as well as they are expected to, then Canadians across the country should clench their jaw in concern. Separatist sentiment is unpredictable— it waxes and wanes naturally, and can explode through seemingly innocuous events. Catalonia and Scotland have made this starkly clear.
Whatever your opinion of Legault and Blanchet may be, it is necessary to understand that they are deeply sophisticated politicians, willing to capitalize on the inevitable shifting of separatist sentiment within Quebec.
If tomorrow, the Quebecois choose to elect a strong separatist party into Ottawa, supported by an equally strong CAQ in Quebec City (whose opinions on separatism are far less clear) then we have to be prepared that separatism is much more alive than we think.