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Progressive Senate Group back from the dead as another Independent defects


Quebec Sen. Pierre Dalphond is leaving the Independent Senators Group (ISG) behind to become a Progressive, a caucus largely composed of former Liberal senators.

With the addition of Dalphond, the Progressive Senate Group now has nine members — enough to be recognized as an official caucus in the upper house.

The designation gives Progressive senators access to committee seats, which are highly prized by members of the upper house, and more research money.

Dalphond, a former judge appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2018, has been an advocate for stricter gun control legislation in the Red Chamber.

Since his election in 2015, Trudeau has tried to strip the place of partisan appointments that sit as members of a party caucus.

Trudeau dropped all Liberal senators from the national caucus in 2014, at the height of the Senate expenses scandal.

Recent defections from ISG

The ISG was established in 2016 to give non-partisan Trudeau appointees a home in the upper house. Nearly half of all sitting senators are members of the ISG.

But there have been a number of defections from the ISG in recent months.

Seven ISG members left in November to form the small-c conservative Canadian Senators Group. Manitoba Sen. Patricia Bovey also jumped to the Progressives earlier this month, paving the way for other liberal-minded senators to make the switch.

Ontario Sen. Peter Harder, the former government representative in the Senate, joined the Progressives last week.

In making the move, Harder said he worried that partisanship has been replaced by “majoritarianism” in the Senate as the ISG under its leader, B.C. Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, looks to tighten its grip on the levers of power in the upper house.

The Liberal Senate caucus rebranded last fall as the Progressive Senate Group in the hope that a name change would attract new senators who were leery of joining a caucus with past partisan ties, given the prime minister’s push for more independence.

Shortly after its relaunch, the caucus lost its “recognized” status when P.E.I. Sen. Percy Downe left for the CSG in November and two mandatory retirements in January pushed membership below the nine-member threshold required for official recognition.

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