Canada's Trudeau boots unelected senators from Liberal group

Wed Jan 29, 2014 12:50pm EST
 
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, fighting to unseat Canada's Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the 2015 election, expelled all his party's members in the scandal-plagued Senate from the Liberal caucus on Wednesday.

The reputation of Canada's Senate, the unelected upper chamber of its Parliament, is in tatters after controversial expense claims by four senators - three Conservative appointees and one Liberal appointee.

Opponents of Trudeau, son of former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, said his motive was to insulate his party from the seething expense scandal. But the Liberal leader said he was moving to fix what he called a broken Senate.

"Paired with patronage, the pervasive issue of partisanship and control in the Senate is a deeply negative force. We need immediate action to address this," Trudeau told reporters in front of the House of Commons, whose members are elected.

Until now, the National Liberal Caucus, which meets to discuss policy and strategy every Wednesday when Parliament is in session, has included Liberal members of both the House and the Senate.

The 32 Liberal senators will no longer be included and Trudeau said they will now sit as independents in the upper chamber. He challenged his Conservative opponents to match his gesture.

Government Auditor General Michael Ferguson is examining all senators' expenses. There is fear in both the Liberal and Conservative parties that more potential scandals could emerge.

"Mr Trudeau has announced a smokescreen to distance himself from the auditor general's report," said Conservative Pierre Poilievre, a junior minister in charge of democratic reform.   Continued...

 
Canada's Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Blair Gable