Senator Fairbairn and public office

Liberal Senator Jim Munson defends Joyce Fairbairn.

Munson, the Liberal whip in the Senate, said he has no doubt Fairbairn was able to grasp the content of legislation and understand what she was voting on. He takes issue with the suggestion that the party deliberately kept her working to somehow save her spot in the Senate. “From my perspective, with the Conservative majority, one vote would not make a difference, but Senator Fairbairn’s vote made a difference to me,” Munson said. “She was well briefed, ready to vote, and knew what she was doing.”

Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton has concerns.

“Any story like this certainly calls into question, in some people’s minds, the whole role of the Senate and it does impact on the Senate. There is no doubt about it,” 72-year-old LeBreton said in an interview Tuesday … “It does present a constitutional dilemma had there been close votes, for instance, so that troubled me and it troubled me that despite a lot of concern expressed by people on our side for Joyce, that we didn’t hear about this till August,” said LeBreton, who expressed her sadness over the situation facing a woman she has known as respected since 1965.

According to the Star, the Liberals say Senator James Cowan, the Liberal leader in the Senate, learned of the declaration of incompetence on August 13. That would be four months after Senator Cowan’s chief of staff signed a document to make himself an agent on Senator Fairbairn’s behalf and six months after Senator Fairbairn’s psychiatrist signed the declaration of incompetence. According to the Star, “Liberal leadership in the Senate had full confidence in Fairbairn throughout the months that she sat in the upper chamber and voted on legislation.”

Whether Senator Fairbairn’s votes could have been pivotal seems besides the point. The first question is this: Should anyone who has been declared incompetent be voting in the Senate or House of Commons? Maybe it’s difficult to answer that question without getting into the specifics of Ms. Fairbairn’s condition at the time, but maybe this is a discussion that has to be had. It’s not a pleasant discussion, but here we are.




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Senator Fairbairn and public office

  1. Been trying to give the CPC the benefit of the doubt on the issue that they aren’t just milking it like the guy in an earlier thread who was just thrilled to start yelling “ELDER ABUSE”, but so far this is the first I’ve heard of the CPC expressing earlier concern. Open to further info here, but is this just after-the-fact Chrisalexandering?

  2. Maybe it’s difficult to answer that question without getting into the
    specifics of Ms. Fairbairn’s condition at the time, but maybe this is a
    discussion that has to be had.
    ***
    Indeed. I’ve been loathe to comment on this issue. I mean the immediate reaction would be of course how could anyone under such an order still keep working, but not knowing the exact details of her condition (and figuring nobody seemed to find it remiss when she was actually voting), and not wanting to run the risk of stigmatizing the elderly or handicapped made me hold my tongue rather than jump to a conclusion.

  3. “The first question is this: Should anyone who has been declared incompetent be voting in the Senate or House of Commons? ”

    Is this even a serious question? Doesn’t the question answer itself. For years, I have impression that Canadian politicians and journos don’t really take themselves seriously and this is perfect example.

    What does it say about our public institutions that people are keen to keep Alzheimer’s sufferers working there? I thought we paid MPs, Senators, and other public servants top $$$ to attract talent and here we are ‘debating’ whether Parliament should allow people who have been declared legally incompetent to continue in their job.

  4. Should anyone who is mentally incompetent be allowed to vote anywhere? We got plenty of Alzheimer strioken persons who were coerced into voting in senior homes in Quebec. A political brochure was found on the premises in one instance so we know for whom that person was forced to vote for. Someone is afraid of losing. Guess who? And I’d say someone is eager to keep power for as long as possible in Ottawa, by whatever means.

    Seriously, election laws are too lax about this issue and so are the Senate rules it seems.

  5. The first question is this: Should anyone who has been declared
    incompetent be voting in the Senate or House of Commons? Maybe it’s
    difficult to answer that question without getting into the specifics of
    Ms. Fairbairn’s condition at the time, but maybe this is a discussion
    that has to be had. It’s not a pleasant discussion, but here we are.

    I don’t see why it needs to be a difficult or unpleasant discussion. “No” seems like a very simple, safe, non controversial, and non partisan answer. If you don’t have control of your mental faculties and have legally been declared incompetent, you should not be participating in votes that potentially affect 35 million people. What’s difficult about that?

    • I agree. This is not controversial.

  6. If we started having competency tests for MPs and Senators, I doubt we’d have many of them left.

    In this particular case, the fault lies with her guardians, in that they didn’t do things fast enough ….although no harm has come of it. Cons have a majority after all.

    • Here’s 3 harms that I see:
      1) It casts the Senate into (further) disrepute. Good for the NDP who want to abolish it. Not so good for anyone interested in keeping it.
      2) It casts the LPC again as the party of those who are “entitled to their entitlements” (phrase courtesy of David Dingwall). Good for the NDP and CPC. Not so good for the LPC.
      3) It means that the people of the Senator’s province were most likely not being properly represented. And apparently this will continue for a while at least.

      • The Senate has been in disrepute at least as long as I’ve been alive….66 years. And while I’ve always said the Senate should be abolished, Canada is still here….so I hardly think one Lib vote in a Con majority senate is going to damage us.

        Cons have a known illiterate Senator….how is that any better?

        Electing Senators won’t make a toss of difference…..elected or appointed, people get ill, get drunk, get high….or are just plain crazy.

        What, you think she’s the only one in Parliament?

  7. There are no depths too low for Marjory Lebreton to plumb.

  8. ” Should anyone who has been declared incompetent be voting in the Senate or House of Commons?”

    The answer seems obvious to me.

    However, Wherry, I fail to see how asking that question enables you to attack the Conservatives.

  9. This story is just further indication of the sick sense of power at all costs that exists within the Liberal Party.
    What the hell difference does one lousy vote in the Senate make to the Liberals ? Well apparently enough to wheel a dementia stricken lady into meetings and votes because if they did the right thing and helped this woman get proper care they might lose that one Liberal-appointed Senate seat.
    Those of you out there who still support this excuse for a political Party should give your heads a shake. What else would they do just to hang onto a little bit of power ?

    • I’m not sure I understand their motivation, but at this point her vote makes no difference in the balance of power, so I fail to see how power would be the motivation for defending her place in the Senate.

  10. How many private sector companies would continue to employ someone performing knowledge based work at full pay who had been declared legally incompetent? I don’t know the actual answer, but my gut says zero to an almost microscopic few. Assuming my gut is correct, why should the Senate be any different?

  11. No way Once declared incompanent it’s out to pasture, No ifs ands or buys.

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