Manitoba down to two senators

Liberal Chaput quits year before mandatory retirement

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OTTAWA -- The last Liberal senator Manitoba may ever have is stepping down.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/02/2016 (2439 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — The last Liberal senator Manitoba may ever have is stepping down.

Maria Chaput submitted her resignation to Gov. Gen. David Johnston Monday. It takes effect March 1.

“I have been considering leaving the Senate for the past two years because of a health issue,” Chaput told the Free Press in her Parliament Hill office.

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press Manitoba Sen. Maria Chaput says her inbox is full of vitriol from voters.

Chaput has kidney disease, and she said the illness is preventing her from pulling her weight in the upper chamber.

“I don’t have the energy anymore to pull my share of the load of work,” she said. “I just can’t do it anymore.”

Chaput, 73, is about a year away from mandatory retirement. She was appointed to the Senate in December 2002 by former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

She said she wants to spend time with her family, including her three daughters and four granddaughters.

Chaput’s departure will leave Manitoba with two of its six allotted senators. Manitoba has been with three since August 2014.

She leaves just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embarks on a new appointments process that will mean senators appointed during his tenure will be independents. If future prime ministers maintain this policy, Chaput will be the last Liberal to sit in the Senate from Manitoba.

Manitoba’s two remaining senators, Don Plett and Janis Johnson, are both Conservatives.

An advisory committee to develop a list of names of potential new senators was established last month, and Trudeau will likely receive lists of nominees by the end of this month.

During the initial round of appointments, two Manitoba vacancies will be filled. The rest should be filled by the end of the year.

Chaput didn’t mince words. She said the Senate has become extremely partisan and there is no sense of purpose.

“There is no way we can go on doing the work in the Senate with this kind of culture,” Chaput said.

She said as a Liberal during the Conservative government, she could not get answers to questions she had about government legislation, and she was denied briefings on particular topics.

“We could not seriously discuss issues,” she said.

‘There is no way we can go on doing the work in the Senate with this kind of culture’– Manitoba Sen. Maria Chaput, on partisanship in the upper chamber

“There was a wall.”

Chaput said she would have resigned earlier but she feared former prime minister Stephen Harper would renege on his promise not to appoint senators.

“I decided to stay until the elections because I didn’t want to give my seat to Harper, to the Conservatives,” she said.

Chaput said the last year has been the toughest in the Senate because of the expenses audit. Thirty senators were asked to repay about $1 million in questionable expense claims.

Chaput was not among them, but she said being audited and under a cloud of controversy took its toll on senators.

“That was very hard and very hard on my health,” she said.

She said she is proud of her work on official language rights. In December, she reintroduced a bill that would change the definition of a minority language speaker to prevent communities from losing government services delivered in minority languages.

Chaput helped credit unions get the government to reverse a plan to eliminate a tax credit that meant they’d be treated like big banks.

“You can make a difference,” she said. “You have to work very hard.”

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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Updated on Tuesday, February 2, 2016 5:58 AM CST: Replaces photo

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