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Sen. Greene says he was ‘ambushed’ by Conservative Senate leader Larry Smith, kicked out of Conservative Senate caucus over dinner with PM

Conservative Senator Stephen Greene said Conservative Senator Larry Smith told him if he attended the dinner with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau he would have to leave the Conservative caucus. He decided to go to the dinner.

Senator Stephen Greene, pictured right, in this file photo, said he was ambushed and was delivered with an ultimatum to leave the Conservative Party of Canada's Senate Caucus on Tuesday by Conservative Senate Leader Larry Smith. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

PUBLISHED :Tuesday, May 16, 2017 2:39 PM

PARLIAMENT HILL—Nova Scotia Conservative Senator Stephen Greene is the first casualty of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s so-called “charm offensive” with Senators to get the government’s legislative agenda moving through the Upper Chamber.

Sen. Greene announced today that he will now sit as an Independent Reform Senator after he was “ambushed and was delivered with an ultimatum to leave the Conservative Party of Canada’s Senate Caucus.”

“Senator Stephen Greene intends to sit as an Independent Reform Senator and hopes to continue to do all he can for the people of Nova Scotia and Canada,” said the press release.

The Hill Times reported exclusively on Monday that Prime Minister Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and Government Senate representative Peter Harder would be hosting a dinner with Senators Tuesday evening on the Hill who have sponsored government legislation in this Parliament.

  

The dinner was scheduled to take place in a private room in the Parliamentary Restaurant.

Sen. Greene told The Hill Times in a telephone interview that before the weekly Conservative Senate caucus meeting on Tuesday afternoon, he was called into Conservative Senate Leader Larry Smith’s office and was told that if he attended the dinner, he’d have to leave the Conservative caucus.

“It wasn’t my intention to do that, I was basically kicked out,” Sen. Greene told The Hill Times.

“I was given an ultimatum. That ultimatum was, ‘If you attend the dinner, you must leave the caucus.’ I made it clear that I wanted to do both, and I thought that both were in order. Then they threw me out,” he said.

  

After the Conservative Senate caucus meeting, Sen. Greene issued a press release.

“At the core of dispute between Senator Greene and the Conservative Senate leadership is Senator Greene’s upcoming participation at a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” stated the press release.

“The prime minister invited all Senators, Independent, and partisan, who have sponsored a government bill in the Senate to dinner in the Parliamentary Restaurant to hear about their experiences,” the press release stated.

Said Sen. Greene, who said he was proud to sponsor Bill S-4 in the Senate last year, which enacted a double taxation agreement with Taiwan and Israel: “I would go to dinner with any prime minister who invited me.”

  

“This whole situation is beyond silly. I was invited to a dinner with the prime minister. Would my Senate leadership not want me to attend such a dinner so that I can report back on what the Liberals’ plans are for the Senate? It makes no sense.”

Sen. Greene said he will continue to sit as Independent Reform Senator, and hopes to continue to work for the people of Nova Scotia and Canada.

The Hill Times was not able to reach Sen. Smith immediately, but his office issued a statement at 4 p.m. EST, saying that Sen. Greene has been reminded “many times of what it means to be a member of the Conservative caucus, he has made a decision that goes against our values and therefore is no longer a member of the Conservative caucus.”

Sen. Smith said Conservatives believe in the “critical role of opposition in Parliament and Stephen Greene’s actions show that he supports Trudeau in his desire to effectively remove his critical role. His actions have consistently been to support the government in his this ill-conceived reform. We cannot agree with that view.”

Sen. Smith said Canada’s parliamentary system of a recognized government and a recognized opposition have “served this country well for 150 years. The Trudeau Liberals have made it a priority to dismantle this system, attempting to diminish the opposition’s ability to hold them to account on behalf of Canadians. We believe it is now more important than ever to ensure a strong, vigorous opposition in both Houses of our Parliament. Sen. Greene does not feel the same.”

Sen. Greene has been an instrumental player in trying to modernize the Senate. Before prime minister Stephen Harper appointed him to the Upper Chamber, Sen. Greene had worked as the chief of staff to then Reform Party leader Preston Manning. He was also deputy chief of staff to Nova Scotia PC Party leader and premier Rod MacDonald and is currently the Nova Scotia chair for Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier.

Read Monday’s story about the dinner in The Hill Times:

PM Trudeau embarks on a ‘charm offensive’ with Senators to get his legislative agenda moving