POLITICS

Scott Reid Casts Major Doubt On Liberals' New Process For Appointing Senators

03/24/2016 05:46 EDT | Updated 03/24/2016 07:59 EDT

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau either lied to Canadians or his independent panel that shortlisted the seven senators appointed last week failed to fulfil its mandate, a Conservative MP charged Thursday.

Ontario MP Scott Reid was responding to a report in The Hill Times that new Quebec Senator André Pratte, a former journalist with the Montreal daily La Presse, did not own property in the district he was appointed to represent.

scott reid

Tory MP Scott Reid said if the Liberals go with a "full" preferential ballot system, they would be assured victory. (The Canadian Press)

The newspaper reported that Pratte has not yet completed the purchase of $4,000 worth of property — a constitutional requirement needed to sit in the Senate. Unlike in other provinces, Quebec senators must own property in one of 24 specific regions they are appointed to represent.

When the new Liberal government announced its new appointment procedure for senators in December, Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef told reporters an independent advisory board would be assessing potential Senate nominees "on the basis of [...] open and merit-based criteria."

The list of criteria the government included mentioned that: "In the case of Quebec, a nominee must have his or her real property qualification in the electoral division for which he or she is appointed, or be resident in that electoral division."

andre pratte

Journalist and author Andre Pratte autographs copies of the book 'Reconquerir Le Canada' in Montreal, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2007. (Photo: Ryan Remiorz/CP)

In the House of Commons on Thursday, Reid demanded to know whether Pratte was on the list of senators the panel had recommended.

"If Mr. Pratte was on the list, the Quebec board has broken its requirements to only nominate qualified persons," Reid said. "If any of the seven was not on the lists, then the prime minister has broken his promise to rely upon independent advice.

"If any of the seven was not on the lists, then the prime minister has broken his promise to rely upon independent advice."

"And if there was any communications between the prime minister and the advisory board to smooth out these wrinkles, then talk of the advisory board being independent is a farce," he continued. "One of these three scenarios is what actually happened. Which one is it?"

Monsef rose to respond but completely ignored Reid's question.

The minister congratulated the new appointees, describing them as "all outstanding Canadians of the highest merit."

"I am confident that they will serve the best interests of Canadians. They also represent the diversity of our great nation," she said.

maryam monsef

Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef responds to a question in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (Photo: Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

The Prime Minister's Office told The Huffington Post Canada that Trudeau had selected Pratte's name from the list of 25 appointees turned over to him for consideration.

Trudeau's spokesman Olivier Duchesneau referred questions about Pratte's qualifications to Huguette Labelle, a former civil servant and later chancellor of the University of Ottawa who chairs the independent panel.

The PMO's department, the Privy Council Office, said Labelle was, however, "not available for an interview" to discuss Pratte's appointment.

Raymond Rivet, the PCO spokesman, said Pratte had a residence in Quebec at the time of his application.

"The requirement is for the nominee to meet the property qualification at time of appointment to Senate," Rivet tried to suggest.

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