Conservative senators defend expulsion of senator over votes

Senators reprimanded for opposing the government’s motion to strike a joint committee on electoral reform have defended the move to expel one Conservative senator from their caucus.

Erin O’Toole, the new defence minister, said in a press conference on Wednesday that British Columbia senator Don Meredith attended last week’s parliamentary caucus for the sole purpose of trying to “make sure he retained his caucus membership”.

Quick guide The latest Liberal amendment to electoral reform Show Hide What is the latest? The Liberals introduced an amendment to their electoral reform motion that would weaken the constitutional amendment required to provide for single transferable vote. Under the amendment, the wording of a parliamentarians’ version of M-103 is stronger. Instead of acknowledging the lack of consensus around the use of a single transferable vote system, the motion now references “the state of lack of consensus around the use of a different form of proportional representation”. Where does M-103 come from? M-103 is a motion tabled in the House by the NDP and the Green party MP Kennedy Stewart. M-103 defines intolerance as those “condemning Islamophobia, Sikhophobia, antisemitism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice and discrimination” and urges that Canadian institutions not be used to “support or condone” Islamophobia. What is the single transferable vote? Canadian politicians have been debating the merits of this electoral system since 2013, and the motion to provide for the use of S-207 of the Constitution Act, 1867, requiring a referendum to consider replacing the first-past-the-post electoral system with S-207, was tabled in the House of Commons in October 2017. It would make S-207 the law of the land in Canada for at least the next federal election, scheduled for October 2019.

Earlier in the day, Conservative senators took Meredith to task for voting in favour of the Liberal motion to strike a joint committee of MPs and senators, just hours after the controversial amendment to M-103 was voted on.

“In order to be here [at caucus] today, Senator Meredith simply had to choose to be here today and according to his own admission, he did not declare a conflict of interest,” O’Toole said.

“It’s up to senators to decide whether they want to be a part of the government caucus. I don’t see how Senator Meredith’s continued presence in caucus affects any of our work on any of the bills that we’re working on today,” he added.

So far, Meredith’s only vote in favour of the bill sponsored by Conservative senator Elaine McCoy has come in Friday’s Senate debate on the motion to strike a committee.

Tuesday’s federal byelection in the riding of Calgary Signal Hill was not a major political event in Canada, but it was the second time in three days the government was forced to defend a procedure vote that effectively kicks out a Conservative senator.

Friday’s motion to strike a joint committee on electoral reform became the centre of further controversy after the Liberal senator and ex-policeman Arthur Hamilton suggested that McCoy, who was representing a woman who was killed and her son who was seriously injured in a stabbing, voted in favour of the bill because she was uncomfortable with “mixed race” people.

Trudeau forced to defend decision to kick Tory senator out of the Senate Read more

“Even the government’s motion acknowledged there was a very concerning tone and that we needed to step back and reflect,” O’Toole said. “Senator McCoy’s own tweet on her involvement in Friday’s debate seemed to reference her role as the co-ordinator of a fundraiser for pro-segregation group Unity Calgary.”

But the defeat of the Liberals’ motion to strike a committee of MPs and senators, saw them lose two points, with the Independent senator Scott Tannas facing the same fate as Meredith.

The government’s choice to remove Meredith is an “end run” and leaves the government and the Conservatives in opposition, British Columbia senator Murray Rankin said.

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