Banning Grit senators' activism? Mercer says not on his home turf - Macleans.ca

Banning Grit senators’ activism? Mercer says not on his home turf

‘I’m a member of the Liberal party’

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Justin Trudeau’s surprise decision to boot those 32 Liberal senators out of his parliamentary caucus is being debated mainly in terms of how significant the move will turn out to be in the functioning of his party on Parliament Hill—and his ability to sell voters on his seriousness as a reformer.

But then there’s that other matter of Trudeau’s seemingly sweeping vow to keep those senators, who happen to still be Liberals, away from the party’s political operations. He declared yesterday that “they will no longer be Liberal organizers, fundraisers, activists in any form.”

That sounded like a pretty broad set of prohibitions. But at least one senator—bred-in-the-bone Nova Scotian Liberal Terry Mercer, a former national director of the party, appointed to the upper chamber by Jean Chrétien a decade ago—says Trudeau’s fiat applies only at the national level.

“I’m not going to be active nationally on fundraising. I’m not going to be active nationally on organization. I respect what Mr. Trudeau says. However, I am an active Liberal in Nova Scotia, and if I am asked by any Liberal association, federally or provincially, in Nova Scotia, to help them in any way, I would.”

He noted that he lives in MP Scott Brison’s riding, and Brison isn’t likely to need his help, beyond hammering a sign into his lawn and knocking on some doors. Liberals running elsewhere in the province, though, he thinks might well need a hand with organization or fundraising.

I asked if that didn’t present a problem, given how strictly Trudeau framed the new limits on what senators are allowed to do.

“I’m a member of the Liberal party,” Mercer said. “I have been long before I was a member of the Senate, almost 50 years. The Liberal party has been an extremely important part of our family for a long time. My mother, before her death a few years ago, told us some really interesting stories about when she was a little girl in the Liberal party.”

That sounded pretty heartfelt. He then concluded: “Before I was a member of the national caucus, I was an activist. I’m not longer in the national caucus now, and I’m still an activist.” It will be interesting to see how many other Liberal senators have similar local and regional loyalties and enthusiasms that they expect will still involve them as “organizers, fundraisers, activists.”