A New Brunswick senator and highly regarded novelist has quit the Independent Senators Group in the Red Chamber.
David Adams Richards, appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017, will now sit outside of any Senate caucuses or groups.
Mr. Richards told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday he made the move because he prefers to be more autonomous.
“I’ve got a position in the Senate given to me by Prime Minister Trudeau to be an independent and that is what I am going to be,” he said.
The Independent Senators Group (ISG) is formed of senators without partisan affiliation. Without Mr. Richards it still counts 43 senators as members and represents the largest group in the Senate.
The ISG “is a very large group − and that is fine − but I have spent most of my life not in a large group,” the New Brunswick senator said.
He said he is not taking this step because he felt undue pressure to conduct himself a certain way when he was a member of the Independent Senators Group, which holds what are effectively caucus meetings and has a leader-facilitator.
“They have never really pressured me to do anything,” Mr. Richards said of the ISG.
He said he merely prefers a greater degree of autonomy – as he has in his personal life and writing career.
“But I feel that the way I have been conducting my life since I was 21, I was mostly on my own, mostly solitary and that is the way I kind of like to be,” he said. “For instance I’ve been a writer now for almost 50 years and I’ve never joined the Writers’ Union of Canada, never joined PEN. I have never joined my provincial writing group.”
He said this merely means “I am just going to remain totally independent about how I vote.”
The ISG is comprised of senators not affiliated with any political party in the Senate and was formed for organizational purposes. It ensure these members are represented on Senate committees and receive similar funding to what is awarded to caucuses or groups in the chamber that contain more than nine members. There are currently 33 Conservative senators, 11 Liberals and now six senators who do not belong to any of these groups.
There are also currently 12 vacancies in the Senate.
Yuen Pau Woo, the leader of the Independent Senators Group, said he wishes Mr. Richards well.
“The Senate is fortunate to have someone of David Richards’ stature in our ranks. He has expressed his wish to not be aligned with any group and we respect his decision,” Mr. Woo said.
“He is a valued colleague and we look forward to working with him regardless of his affiliation.”