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EDITORIAL: High time to set precedent


If Senator Don Meredith hasn’t the sense to resign, his colleagues in the upper chamber will have to step in and provide that element of sober second thought.

It’s looking like they’ll have that option to decide his fate over a grotesque path of indiscretion.

Any adult – in Meredith’s case, a 52-year-old – would be under scrutiny for carrying on a relationship with a teenager that eventually included sex. For a member of a political body bound to make prudent decisions and governed by a code of ethics, the thought is lurid.

The Senate ethics committee issued its recommendation Tuesday that Meredith be expelled from the upper chamber. He’s allowed five sitting days to respond to the report, before the Senate body could vote on the recommendation.

If it comes to such a head, it’s hard to see how senators could make any other decision than to give him the boot. This disturbing story comes in the wake of a number of scandalous revelations and allegations in the past several years involving members, many in relation to inappropriate expensing.

Much of the pressure on the Senate boils down to public’s perception of an unelected political body, an apparent widespread sense of entitlement and sporadic instances of abusing a position of trust. If members appear forgiving in this case, expect some collective eye-rolling and a public asking what’s next?

Meredith, married, and a Pentecostal minister, began a relationship with the girl when she was 16. Senate ethics officer Lyse Ricard in her findings said Meredith had abused his position as a senator to take advantage of the teen. The senator has rejected calls from his colleagues to resign, apparently satisfied to describe his actions as a moral failing. He has apologized to his family, to senators and to the woman. He’s split hairs on the depth of culpability, claiming he didn’t have sex with the woman until after she turned 18.

There’s little saving grace in that explanation – or make that none at all.

No doubt senators will do what’s right, and are likely as troubled by the case as the average Canadian. They also must be hypersensitive to anything that would hint at further disrepute.

It’s been said expulsion would be precedent setting. Indeed, and it’s high time to set that precedent.

This might well not be the last time a public figure of such high ranking is disgraced and called upon to resign – or is outright expelled. But the Canadian public needs a strong reminder issued to those seeking such a position that their moral character, along with ability to do the job, will indeed fall under scrutiny.

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