Don Meredith’s political fate up for debate

Fate will be determined behind closed doors

OTTAWA — The political future of Canada’s latest controversy-shrouded senator will be determined behind closed doors Wednesday as the Senate ethics committee decides what, if anything, to do about Sen. Don Meredith’s relationship with a 16-year-old.

The committee will make its decision with or without Meredith in attendance, and the Senate may do the same when it is asked to vote on the committee’s recommendations.

The committee is meeting amid calls for Meredith to be booted from the upper chamber after a damning report from the Senate ethics officer — and lingering fear that the controversy could undo the chamber’s efforts to recover from years of scandal.

The Senate has never expelled a senator. But the general feeling in the Senate — from senators to a number of female staffers — is that Meredith is no longer welcome there.

Experts say Sec. 18 of the Constitution gives the chamber the power to turf one of its own. That section says it and the House of Commons have the same powers as the British House of Commons, which can expel a member and declare their seat vacant.

Last week, Meredith publicly apologized to his family, his fellow senators, the woman in question — known only as Ms. M — and to all Canadians, hoping the contrition would be enough for him to hold on to his Senate seat.

“This is a moral failing on my part,” Meredith said in a wide-ranging interview with The Canadian Press, with his lawyer in attendance. “As a human being, I made a grave error in judgment, in my interactions. For that I am deeply sorry.”

The Senate ethics report found Meredith, 52, had sex with the woman once before she turned 18 and twice afterward, and also engaged her in explicit online chats.

Meredith acknowledged a sexual relationship, but only after the woman turned 18.

Ethics officer Lyse Ricard ruled that Meredith used his position as senator improperly, and that he failed to uphold the “highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of senator” in violating the Senate’s ethics code.

Meredith parted ways Monday with the lawyer representing him in the ethics case. Toronto lawyer Selwyn Pieters said on Twitter that Meredith has retained new counsel, “with my blessing.”

“That was one of the shortest and most hectic retainers I have ever taken on in my legal career,” Pieters wrote.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

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