OTTAWA — The last group of former Liberal senators in Parliament’s upper chamber are rebranding themselves as the Progressive Senate Group.
The nine senators say they have adopted the new name to reflect their approach to legislating, with an aim to restore balance in the evolving Senate.
“We have always been progressive, independent senators and now our group truly reflects that fact,” said the group’s interim leader, New Brunswick Sen. Joseph Day. “We will continue to build on our experiences and knowledge, coming together to debate new ideas and policies that reflect our shared progressive values.”
Day’s deputy, Terry Mercer, said the move is about embracing the future while remaining to true to their shared principles.
The nine were part of the Senate Liberal caucus until Justin Trudeau severed direct ties with his party’s senators in 2014. Other members include Lillian Dyck of Saskatchewan, Dennis Dawson and Serge Joyal of Quebec and Percy Downe of Prince Edward Island. Several are former Liberal party functionaries and aides; Joyal was once a cabinet minister.
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Since he became prime minister in 2015, Trudeau has only appointed senators who don’t sit as party members, as part of what the government says is a push to remove partisanship from the Senate.
Senate rules, however, give procedural and administrative advantages — such as committee seats and bigger budgets — to senators who form official caucuses. That’s led to loose affiliations such as the Independent Senators Group, whose members don’t necessarily vote together. Just a few days ago, 11 senators decided to form a new “Canadian Senators Group” to advance regional interests.
Only Conservative senators, who hold 25 of the 105 seats in the chamber, are officially attached to a federal party and work as a bloc.
The rebranded group of senators will be able to be members of any political party, but their numbers will dwindle over the course of 2020 as Day, Dyck and Joyal will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2019.