Senator Fairbairn and the Senate


Jonathan Kay considers the situation with Senator Fairbairn.

The folks commenting on this story in the mainstream press and social media, even the snarky ones, aren’t mocking Senator Fairbairn. They’re mocking what her case says about the Senate. And they’re absolutely right to do so, even if the underlying news story is sad and personal. In fact, I know of no single episode that better summarizes the need for Senate reform.

Either the Canadian Senate is important and useful, or it is not. And if it is important and useful, then it demands intellectually competent members — which Ms. Fairbarn, sadly, isn’t anymore. If she is not legally competent to enter into a contract to buy a house or sell stock, why did her fellow Senate Liberals see fit to line her up to vote on legislation affecting 33-million people? The fact that they saw nothing wrong with this suggests that they themselves see their body as a sinecure pasture. And obviously, that candid insight into Senators’ own views is something deserving of reportage and even mockery.


Senator Fairbairn and the Senate

  1. There’s a nasty political agenda going on here….this story was totally unnecessary and shaming to whoever is pushing it.

  2. Kay knows nothing of dementia. He knows nothing of the pain it inflicts on family and yes colleagues who see a slow imperceptible onslaught, painstakingly slow progression, anger and hostility, impossible decisions. Let’s have some compassion for her Senate staff and colleagues as well as family who are all victims. This poor sad lady, still conscious likely, and fully aware of the hate and vitriol and blame surrounding her last days as a Senator.
    Use somebody else, maybe Mike Duffy, for your attack against the Senate Kay.
    No No says Kay I like cheap shots and easy targets who can’t fight back. And brownie points with the PMO.

    • Kay knows nothing of dementia. He knows nothing of the pain it inflicts on family…
      How the hell do you know what Kay knows? That is one of the most obnoxious assumptions a person can make… “if you don’t agree with me, you are ignorant.”

      • If he knew anything he wouldn’t do what he’s doing. He would have deeper more profound understanding of the problem they all must have faced. And he would have compassion and not use an innocent bystander for a crass political purpose. As I said use Mike Duffy.

        • Crocodile tears. Aging and Alzheimer’s disease are natural situations and there is no lack of compassion in speaking plainly about them. The lady is (and was) suffering from dementia and the Liberals kept her in her place hoping they could forestall her replacement. I understand why they did it, but I find it disgusting and contemptible. The lady should have been retired from the Senate the same day as she was declared legally incompetent. To do otherwise – regardless of the desperate rationalizations – was a cruelty and a cynical deception.
          All the weeping and wailing and rending of garments about the horrible cruelty of those horrid plebes who feel entitled to comment is just a pathetic effort to distract.

        • Mike isn’t the one with dementia (well, at least, not diagnosed). So in this instance it serves no purpose.

          If Fairburn is not able to make decisions regarding her own affairs, she is in no state to make decisions affecting a nation. Those who continued to send her to vote despite knowing her condition are despicable and far more concerned about partisan politics than about the good of either Senator Fairburn or the nation.

          No one is criticizing the Senator for her mental state; the criticism is aimed at those who knowingly allowed her to continue to act in a role for which she was no longer competent.

  3. This is a low day for journalism. Maybe a little compassion for someone facing a terrible tragedy is what happened. Not everything is Watergate.

  4. “And if it is important and useful, then it demands intellectually competent members …”

    Well there goes that whole elected Senate plan.

  5. The Liberal Party trotted out (i.e. abused) a seriously ill person in public for a couple of months so a few Liberal staffers could keep their jobs for a couple of more years.

    Should not Senator Cowan be charged with elder abuse? Is the Liberal Party this desperate for money?

    That is the story.

    • We rarely agree, but on this one I concur. I don’t know about charging with elder abuse, but definitely there needs to be some form of censure and punishment for those (Senators and staff) who continued to deceive the Senate and the nation in this fashion.

      Fairburn was not fit to serve as a Senator from the moment she was not competent to look after her own affairs; to knowingly allow her to continue to sit and to vote was to mock and disparage the institution – and the nation – she was supposed to represent.

      This is not exactly going to help win people back to voting Liberal…

  6. Poor Senator Fairburn; she deserves better than this.

    Do you remember Ronald Reagan? During most of his last term, he was in the throes of alzheimer’s, although he did not disclose it until leaving office. There were lots of comments from media and others who noticed his lack of alertness, and it has since been recorded in various professional memoirs, but he still served out his term as President of the USA. Pretty sure he was making fairly big decisions in that role …

    Even Mr Layton, may he rest in peace, did not disclose the true nature of his illness, nor has that been disclosed in the year since his passing.

    I feel badly for her, both for the illness she faces, and for the fact that her many positive years of hard work as a public servant are going to be lost in this cacaphony of accusations, people running an agenda and overlooking the fact that she deserves compassion and respect.

    • Neither Raegan or Layton were declared legally incompetent. That’s the big difference. And this isn’t a critism of the Senator, it’s a critism of the Senate leadership who seem to have been actively encouraging her to continue. People should be questioning weather they’re incompetent.

      • So hte president of the US should get a free pass because he hid his dementia?

  7. Mr. Kay’s whole point is that she was not competent to vote. From what I know she voted along party lines every time she voted. How is this different from every other Senator, including the Conservative ones, or for that matter, from every MP. They all follow party lines when they vote and when they parrot the party speaking points everywhere. And yes that includes many Ministers.

  8. Not sure what the LPC hoped to gain by delaying Fairbairn’s retirement – even in the short term and certainly in the long term this seems like a bad move on their part.

    OTOH, to use Fairbairn’s case as an argument in favour of Senate reform is also rather poorly considered.

  9. Brilliant argument Mr. Kay.. if something is important and useful, then obviously nobody would allow a single incompetent member within it. What else can we apply such a sterling argument to? I know! The US Presidency — Ronald Reagan’s son reports that he had Alzheimer’s in the last years of his term, but obviously that position isn’t important enough to warrant that the man who could order the destruction of the entire world needs to be replaced when he’s sick.

    Hm. Perhaps there are other factors that need to be considered.

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