Senator Marilou McPhedran has resigned from the largest bloc of independent senators, stating that she refused to participate in a closed-door hearing focused on whether she should be removed from the Independent Senators Group (ISG).
In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. McPhedran said she felt like she made the right decision by leaving the group, and that though she’s feeling angry and sad at the outcome, she’s also relieved.
“Part of me is actually a little bit excited by the idea of being truly unaffiliated,” she said, “and whether that’s going to give me scope to be truly independent.”
The ISG hearing had been scheduled for Monday; Ms. McPhedran resigned hours before its planned start.
Ms. McPhedran previously told The Globe that she was being brought before the hearing because she sent an e-mail to all senators last month that raised questions about how the chamber’s ethics code was applied. Though she did not name anyone in the e-mail, it followed media reports in the summer that Ontario senator Sarabjit Marwah, who is a former Bank of Nova Scotia executive, did consulting work for the federal Finance Department.
On Monday, Ms. McPhedran sent a letter to her colleagues in the ISG explaining her resignation. She wrote that she cannot participate in the expulsion hearing laid out before her because it would validate the process, which she said was unfair. The letter read that the hearing would have set a precedent for other accused senators, and that the situation seemed “pre-ordained in its negative outcome” for her.
She added that she hoped this incident would prompt a review of the ISG charter for how these situations are handled in the future.
The letter also outlined previous incidents that Ms. McPhedran indicated led to the hearing, and she said she was warned in May by ISG leadership that she needed to balance “freedom of action with the needs of the group.”
Ms. McPherson will now sit as an independent senator. Though leaving the ISG does not affect her Senate seat, the change means she will not receive extra support for research, which senators have access to through group membership.
Since forming government in 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rejected the tradition of appointing partisan senators who represent a political party. Independent senators now make up the majority of the 105-seat chamber. Those independent senators have since broken into three separate blocs: the ISG; the Progressive Senate Group; and the Canadian Senators Group.
No senators sit as Liberals. The 18 who sit as Conservatives are the only remaining senators who are officially tied to a political party. There are currently 11 Senate vacancies.
Senator Yuen Pau Woo, the leader of the ISG, said in a statement to The Globe that Ms. McPhedran was offered an opportunity to defend herself through a “fair and impartial hearing.”
“Her resignation letter is an attempt to cast doubt on the integrity of the hearing itself and raise issues that are not relevant to the expulsion hearing,” the statement read. “By raising these issues outside of the hearing process, she also deprived ISG members the opportunity to hear the case for her expulsion and the rebuttal to her claims.”
Mr. Woo added that the ISG wishes Ms. McPhedran well and will not be commenting further on the matter.
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