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Tories won't allow "fake Liberal" senate appointments in caucus   

[PoliticsWatch Updated 2:15 p.m. March 24, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Both the NDP and the Conservative Party said Thursday they have no plans to allow Prime Minister Paul Martin's three opposition senate appointments to sit in their caucuses.  

Martin announced nine senate appointments on Thursday, including former cabinet minister Art Eggleton and retired general Romeo Dallaire. Six of the appointments were Liberal, but two were listed as "Progressive Conservatives" and another listed as NDP.

"What we've done is to nominate outstanding Canadians," said Martin after the weekly cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill. "Canadians who've got a major record.

"Liberal government's don't normally appoint members of the opposition. But these people are not going to sit as Liberals, they're going to sit as members of the opposition caucus and I think it's up to the leaders of the opposition parties to decide whether in fact they'll be welcomed in their caucus."

But the opposition parties weren't welcoming them with open arms. 

"He hasn't appointed any Conservatives, he's appointed some fake Liberals," said Geoff Norquay, a spokesman for Conservative Party Leader Stephen Harper.

"They're not members of our party, so they won't be sitting in our caucus. They're sitting as Progressive Conservatives, that's a party that does not exist."

The federal Progressive Conservative Party was formally disbanded after the party's merger with the Canadian Alliance last year. 

Most former PC Senators joined the Conservative caucus, with the exception of four - Lowell Murray, Norman Atkins and William Doody, who sit as Progressive Conservatives, and Mira Spivak, who sits as an independent.

Martin named Nancy Ruth of Ontario to the senate as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party. A biography supplied by the Prime Minister's Office highlighted Ruth's long history of "co-founding organizations that work for women's social change in Canada." She has also "spoken exhaustively about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," the PM's press release noted. 

The Liberals often accuse Harper of having little respect for the Charter of Rights. 

Martin also ignored the results of a November election in Alberta of four so-called senators-in-waiting. 

Conservative candidates Bert Brown, Betty Unger and Cliff Breitkreuz, along with independent Link Byfield were unofficially elected by the province's voters in the last provincial election. 

Instead, Martin named Elaine McCoy, who served in the cabinet of former premier Don Getty, and will sit in the senate as a Progressive Conservative. 

A spokesman for NDP Leader Jack Layton said the party will not allow Lillian Dyck, who Martin named as an NDP senator, to sit in their caucus. 

The NDP's position on the senate is the abolishment of it. 

"If she wants to be sitting as an NDP member in the caucus, she would have had to run as NDP candidate and win a seat in the last election," said Karl Belanger. 

"We don't feel that we have a voice in the senate. If she was a real New Democrat, the first thing she'd do would be to put a motion forward to abolish the senate."

Belanger said Dyck, who the PMO described as well-known advocate for women and aboriginals from Saskatchewan, is not an "active member" in the federal NDP. She was last registered with the federal party in 1994, and provincially in 2003. 

The other appointments Martin made to the Senate were Jim Cowan of Nova Scotia, a Halifax lawyer who chaired the 2004 federal Liberal campaign in Nova Scotia, Robert Peterson, who chaired the Liberal campaign in Saskatchewan, Grant Mitchell, a former Alberta Liberal party leader, and Claudette Tardif, an Alberta academic with a history of championing bilingualism. 

Martin still has seven vacancies left to fill in the Senate. 

Other names that have circulated as possible appointees are former cabinet minister Stan Keyes and former Ontario premier Ernie Eves. 

: Related Links

> Prime Minister announces appointments to the Senate

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