OTTAWA — Sen. David Adams Richards says there's no "spectacular" reason why he decided to ditch his Independent Senators Group membership and sit as a non-affiliated senator this week. He insists he wanted to break apart from a pack that was becoming "really quite large."
The News Brunswick senator was appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last summer. Richards told HuffPost Canada the idea of leaving the ISG has been on his mind since Christmas after a conversation with his wife, Peggy McIntyre.
"I had mentioned to Peg that I've been unaffiliated all my life in my work," he explained. "I said, you know, I can do that in the Senate and I'd feel comfortable. So that's what I decided to finally to do."
The ISG has the most members of any caucus or group in the Senate. It is regarded as a parliamentary group, not a party or a caucus.
In the seven months since Richard's arrival in the Senate, he has participated in 20 recorded votes. Abstaining himself from three, he has more often sided with Conservatives.
ISG votes aren't whipped as they are with senators who are members of Liberal and Conservative caucuses.
You know, it really has nothing to do with the people in the ISG — most of who I know and like a lot.Sen. David Adams Richards
Richards is an award-winning author of 30 books. He's won the Governor General's Literary Award in fiction and non-fiction categories. His novel Mercy Among the Children took home the Giller Prize in 2000.
Throughout his career, Richards said he's avoided membership in writers unions and resisted joining groups such as PEN International.
On the ISG, Richards described it as a "rather large, large conglomerate of senators" and he decided it would be easier for him to sit as an non-affiliated independent.
"You know, it really has nothing to do with the people in the ISG — most of who I know and like a lot. I mean, but there are 43 members now. It was getting really quite large."
The upper chamber currently has 12 vacant seats.
No more access to ISG resources
A recent change to the Senate's rules now give groups, with more than 20 senators, a "set level of funding for administrative, logistical, research and other services" to members, according to ISG spokeswoman Aline Lafrenière.
The rule change does not apply to caucuses.
By pulling out of the ISG, Richards will no longer have access to those additional resources given to members of parliamentary groups of the Senate.
ISG facilitator Sen. Yuen Pau Woo spoke glowingly of Richards and his decision to sit as a non-affiliated senator.
"He has expressed his wish to not be aligned with any group and we respect his decision," Woo said of his colleague in an email. "He is a valued colleague and we look forward to working with him regardless of his affiliation."
Richards explained in an interview that his decision to quit the group wasn't driven by bad blood. "It really has nothing to do with the people in the ISG — most of who I know and like a lot," he said.
It's nearing the end of Richards' first day as an unaffiliated senator. Though it's early, he thinks he'll be happy sitting in the Senate as an emancipated ISG member, he said.
"Just as I was happy with writing my books alone in my study. I mean, that's the same kind of thing really."
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