University of Toronto
2 min

Crossing the red carpet

There was a floor-crossing of sorts in the Senate yesterday. Independent Senator Lillian Dyck is now a Liberal.

Dr. Dyck is a respected scientist with a Masters in Biochemistry and a PhD in Biological Psychiatry. She’s also a member of the Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan. Exactly the kind of person who is a perfect example for why appointing Senators isn’t such a bad thing – she’s someone who is accomplished and has a lot to offer public life, but wouldn’t necessarily have gone into politics (as opposed to the same kinds of career politicians we would find on the ballot if we elected Senators).

When Paul Martin appointed Dr. Dyck to the Senate in 2005, she opted to sit as an NDP Senator – only the NDP refused to recognise her, or let her join their caucus, as they are steadfast in their belief that Canada should abolish the Upper Chamber (in defiance of logic or constitutional realities). And so, Dr. Dyck sat as an Independent NDP Senator until yesterday.

Dr. Dyck says that she feels that she can be much more effective as a member of a party, and that she has been impressed with Michael Ignatieff, and this does seem to almost hearken a renewed interest in having people of intellect back in politics. (Whether or not this will translate to the ballot box we’ll have to see, since the ability to “have a beer” with a political leader does seem to be the counterintuitive test in some voters eyes).

Now, some of you might wonder how this is going to be significant in terms of the dynamics in the Senate. After all, the Liberals still hold the majority of seats there, right? Well, after Harper appointed his new eighteen last month, there was a flurry of calculation that said that if he kept naming Senators as a spate of retirements was coming through the year, he could achieve a Conservative majority in the Upper Chamber by January of next year. Dyck’s crossing the floor changes that calculation. I’m not quite sure by how long, but it will put a Conservative majority in the Senate further out of reach – possibly long enough for the Liberals to form a government and repopulate their own ranks.



A quick update on that top bureaucrat the Liberals poached – it seems they didn’t poach him at all. Apparently Kevin Chan used to be a student of Ignatieff’s at Harvard, and jumped at the chance to work with him as Liberal leader. Ignatieff, incidentally, is quite incensed at the PMO’s suggestion that anything untoward might take place regarding Chan’s access to sensitive information in his current position.