Quebec senator already out of Tory caucus now quits party after Poilievre victory

·3 min read

OTTAWA — A Quebec senator says Pierre Poilievre's first week as Conservative leader has left him "comfortable" with his decision to quit the party.

Sen. Jean-Guy Dagenais had supported former Quebec premier Jean Charest in the recent leadership race, and hasn't sat in the Conservative senators caucus since 2019.

He left while Andrew Scheer was still leader over concerns including Scheer's struggle during that fall's federal election campaign to articulate his social conservative views around abortion.

On Friday, Dagenais said he decided to fully leave the party over the weekend following Poilievre's massive victory in which he found widespread support in Quebec.

"It's not my value," he said in an interview Friday.

Dagenais said he disagreed with Poilievre's support of last winter's trucker convoy in Ottawa as well as his proposal to fire the governor of the Bank of Canada and cut government funding to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

Poilievre had been heavily expected to win the contest, but still surprised some with the size of his victory, which many — but not all — Conservatives believe will provide the party with the unity it has lacked since losing power to the Liberals in 2015.

Poilievre campaigned on the central rallying cry of freedom — a message he believes all Conservatives, regardless of their specific political interests, can support.

Dagenais says watching Poilievre's raucous first press conference with reporters this week affirmed his decision to leave, comparing the performance to that of former U.S. president Donald Trump.

During the event, a reporter repeatedly shouted at Poilievre after being informed the new leader wouldn't answer questions during his initial media appearance since winning the Conservative leadership. Poilievre eventually agreed to take two questions.

"I remember Mr. Trump," Dagenais said. "He doesn't like the media, he prefers to give the information through social media."

He added: "I'm comfortable with my decision because I cannot support Mr. Poilievre."

Dagenais also called it "unacceptable" that the Conservative party sent a text message to members in the Quebec riding of now-Independent MP Alain Rayes, who also left the party after Poilievre's victory.

The party has since apologized for sending the message, which encouraged members to ask Rayes to resign.

In response, Rayes issued a statement saying Canadians will decide for themselves what they think of the situation, but that he will denounce all forms of bullying.

Rayes also had worked to see Charest elected. The former premier ultimately placed a distant second to Poilievre, who received almost 70 per cent of members' support compared to Charest's 16 per cent.

The departures of Dagenais and Rayes came as Poillievre met this week with MPs and began appointing his picks to serve in some key party positions.

He enjoyed the support of 62 of the party's other 118 MPs during the race, many of whom say they believe their caucus is united.

Dagenais says he considers himself to be a progressive conservative and feels others in the party who identify similarly will also leave.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press