Quebec Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais quit the Conservative caucus on Monday, criticizing party Leader Andrew Scheer’s views on social issues and saying the party wasted an opportunity to win the last election.
Mr. Dagenais said in a statement that the day after the Conservative caucus reviewed the results of the election he decided to sit as an independent and has now joined the newly formed Canadian Senators Group.
The senator has been outspoken about how Mr. Scheer fared in the election – and reiterated that view on Monday.
“Mr. Dagenais had already publicly expressed the fact that Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer's beliefs about abortion and same-sex marriages led to a mass exodus of the Quebec vote that the party hoped to win with the excellent candidates who had been recruited for the election of 21 October,” said a statement from his office.
“Mr. Scheer is a very good person, he’s a gentleman, but in Quebec now I receive many calls from candidates, or other members of the party, and I’m sorry: For the next election, we don’t have a chance with Mr. Scheer,” Mr. Dagenais said in an interview.
Given the senator’s views, the statement continues, he believes it would be inappropriate for him to remain in the Conservative caucus.
Mr. Dagenais, a former police officer, was appointed to the Senate in 2012 by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Two weeks ago, 11 senators representing different regions of the country and contrasting political views announced they were leaving their respective caucuses to form the Canadian Senators Group (CSG).
Mr. Dagenais said the new group was a “logical choice” that will allow him to express his views “unreservedly.”
“I am particularly excited about working with this group, and especially with Senator Scott Tannas, whose leadership and convening skills will enable us to be critical and productive in reviewing government legislation and in committees of the Senate,” he said.
Mr. Tannas, a former Conservative senator, is the interim leader of the group, which now has 13 members.
The Independent Senators Group, formed in 2016, has 51 members, and there are 24 Conservative senators and 12 who are not affiliated with any group. Nine senators made up the Progressive Senate Group – formerly the Liberal caucus – but that caucus lost official status when Senator Percy Downe, once a chief of staff to prime minister Jean Chrétien, announced on Monday that he was leaving for the CSG.
There are five vacant seats in the Senate.
Mr. Dagenais said in his statement that he will keep his membership in the Conservative Party, even though he disagrees with “certain social values and the low importance attached to Quebec voters by the current leadership,” because it’s the only party that shares his views on the economy and national security.