Senator Fairbairn and public office

Liberal Senator Jim Munson defends Joyce Fairbairn.

Munson, the Liberal whip in the Senate, said he has no doubt Fairbairn was able to grasp the content of legislation and understand what she was voting on. He takes issue with the suggestion that the party deliberately kept her working to somehow save her spot in the Senate. “From my perspective, with the Conservative majority, one vote would not make a difference, but Senator Fairbairn’s vote made a difference to me,” Munson said. “She was well briefed, ready to vote, and knew what she was doing.”

Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton has concerns.

“Any story like this certainly calls into question, in some people’s minds, the whole role of the Senate and it does impact on the Senate. There is no doubt about it,” 72-year-old LeBreton said in an interview Tuesday … “It does present a constitutional dilemma had there been close votes, for instance, so that troubled me and it troubled me that despite a lot of concern expressed by people on our side for Joyce, that we didn’t hear about this till August,” said LeBreton, who expressed her sadness over the situation facing a woman she has known as respected since 1965.

According to the Star, the Liberals say Senator James Cowan, the Liberal leader in the Senate, learned of the declaration of incompetence on August 13. That would be four months after Senator Cowan’s chief of staff signed a document to make himself an agent on Senator Fairbairn’s behalf and six months after Senator Fairbairn’s psychiatrist signed the declaration of incompetence. According to the Star, “Liberal leadership in the Senate had full confidence in Fairbairn throughout the months that she sat in the upper chamber and voted on legislation.”

Whether Senator Fairbairn’s votes could have been pivotal seems besides the point. The first question is this: Should anyone who has been declared incompetent be voting in the Senate or House of Commons? Maybe it’s difficult to answer that question without getting into the specifics of Ms. Fairbairn’s condition at the time, but maybe this is a discussion that has to be had. It’s not a pleasant discussion, but here we are.

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