Erin O’Toole’s decision to eject Sen. Lynn Beyak from the Conservative caucus has been criticized as a move by the party leader to attack a division in the ranks.
The Senate committee on internal economy unanimously voted to fire Beyak from caucus. She was later banned from office privileges after referring to children of Indigenous people as “murderers and rapists” and called them “subhuman.”
O’Toole accused Beyak of breaking caucus rules and said she would soon be referred to the Ethics Commissioner for further action.
O’Toole was questioned by the panel and defended her decision, saying there are rules that need to be followed.
“Some times our caucus sometimes can lack the necessary leadership to deal with these situations. We have discipline with senators, you go through a process to learn the rules. These are serious times in our country,” O’Toole said.
“She [Beyak] was elected to the Canadian Senate and as a member of the Canadian Senate she has a duty to observe the rules of the institution of the Canadian Senate, she has been put on notice. She is entitled to defend herself before the Committee. She will have a chance to express her views but we have rules for a reason.”
Liberal Sen. Sharon Carstairs called O’Toole’s criticism “over the top” and said it was “wholly disproportionate” and that she had “no right to say that this is what a leader of a party does in the Senate when Senator Beyak has been elected to represent the people of the Senate.”
Critics say the move is driven by the leader, who is trying to increase her popularity in the polls.
The Conservative caucus is divided with some conservatives criticizing Beyak for comments she made last year. She had been criticizing the government’s non-binding apology to residential school survivors and said that what they’d put into those institutions was worse than the things they went through.
Sen. Tom Lankin defended Beyak by saying that everyone has the right to their opinion and that people shouldn’t be silenced by party leaders in those circumstances.
“It’s my sense that she does a good job in her capacity and certainly under those circumstances has done a good job for the Canadian public. I don’t believe that’s any different today than it was a week ago or a month ago or a year ago,” Lankin said.
“The leaders in my party change. She is part of the team. If the leaders of the party change then everybody has to adapt. I don’t want to seem to be defensive. We should all think about what’s best for the Canadian public.”
Liberal Sen. Serge Joyal accused O’Toole of playing politics.
“My quarrel is not with Senator Beyak, my quarrel is with the leader who constantly goes to play the politics of fear when, there are larger questions to be answered. A situation like this is extremely divisive and the conservatives can’t hide behind it,” Joyal said.
The Conservative Senate caucus was criticized for its political moves last year, as the chamber failed to pass the so-called assisted dying bill by a crucial vote in December.
Sebastien Togneri said he had “some concerns” about whether O’Toole was “a little bit too aggressive.”
“While we certainly have the right to take it a step further at this point in time, it’s certainly not the party whip’s job to do that,” Togneri said.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.
Watch Erin O’Toole discuss the Conservatives and Senate below: