One of the few Canadian senators to have been "elected" to the Upper Chamber under a party banner now says he can be better serve the Senate by sitting as an independent.
Alberta Sen. Doug Black, who was appointed in January 2013 by former prime minister Stephen Harper, announced in a statement Thursday that he will no longer sit as a Conservative.
Sen. Doug Black has quit the Conservative caucus to sit as an independent. (Photo: Twitter)
Black won a special, non-binding election for Alberta's vacant Senate seat in 2012 as a representative for the provincial Progressive Conservative party.
Alberta is the only province that allows citizens have a say on who will represent them in the Senate, but it remains the prerogative of the prime minister of the day to decide whether or not to honour the results.
Black said in a release that after more than three years representing Albertans, he now sees "new possibilities for how the Senate can serve Canadians."
"I was elected by Albertans to ensure my voice and actions effectively represent the interests of our province," he said. "I believe that the best way for me to continue working towards creating a more accountable and effective Senate, while also better representing Albertans, is to sit as an independent senator."
Black shared his statement on social media, receiving both kudos and complaints from those who said he was elected to serve as a Tory in the chamber.
Former Calgary Police Commission chair Mike Shaikh, who finished third in the 2012 vote, told The Globe and Mail earlier this year that he hopes the new Liberal government's Senate advisory board will permit him to sit in the red chamber when an Alberta vacancy becomes available in 2018.
The Upper Chamber has seen a number of Conservative senators declare independence in the months since the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came into office and began reforms to make the Senate a less partisan place.
In early 2014, Trudeau unceremoniously booted all Liberal senators from caucus.
Senators Jacques Demers, Diane Bellemare, Elaine McCoy, Michel Rivard, and John Wallace have all quit the Conservative caucus since November. Sen. Pierrette Ringuette also left the Senate Liberal caucus.
Demers told reporters in December that he did not want to leave the caucus while Harper was still in power because he felt it would be disloyal.
"I owe some respect to that man for appointing me, so I stayed to the end," he said.
The Quebec senator and former Montreal Canadiens head coach suffered a "serious" stroke in April.
Advisory board looking for new senators
Just five "elected" Alberta senators have been appointed since the province started holding votes in 1989. But Bert Brown, who was appointed by Harper in 2007 after winning two provincial votes, told The Huffington Post Canada in 2013 that senators toe the party line rather than represent the interests of their provinces.
"They just vote either for Liberals or for Conservatives," Brown said at the time.
Trudeau named seven new senators in March, the first appointments in three years and first according to the new independent advisory board that is tasked with picking senators on their merit.
The federal government is now accepting applications for another round of appointments for vacancies in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
With a file from The Canadian Press
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