OTTAWA — Sen. Don Meredith could find out as early as next week what punishment he'll face for having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl.
The Senate's ethics committee — which has been pondering a range of sanctions from reprimand to outright expulsion — is hoping to finalize its recommendations and table them in the upper chamber next week.
"We're coming to the final end of the process," committee chair Raynell Andreychuk said following a three-hour, closed-door meeting Thursday.
The committee is to meet again Tuesday to go over its draft report and hopefully wrap up its work, Andreychuk said.
The contents of the report will not be made public until it is tabled in the Senate, which must sign off on any sanctions recommended by the committee. Andreychuk said while the objective is to table the final report next week, she acknowledged that may yet prove too ambitious.
"We want to be fair, we want to weigh all of the interests: the institution, the senators, the public and Sen. Meredith. And so, while we have to be prompt, we also have to be correct in following the process and being fair to everyone."
The committee's deliberations were sparked by a damning report last month from the Senate's ethics officer, Lyse Ricard, who concluded that Meredith didn't uphold the “highest standards of dignity inherent to the position of senator” and acted in a way that could damage the Senate itself.
According to Ricard, Meredith began a relationship with the girl when she was just 16; it progressed from flirtatious online chats to fondling and sexually explicit live videos and, eventually, to sexual intercourse — once shortly before the teen turned 18 and twice after.
Meredith has acknowledged the relationship but maintains he only had intercourse with the teen after she turned 18.
He has since apologized publicly for what he called a moral failing but has rejected near-universal calls from fellow senators for his resignation.
In terms of sanctions, Andreychuk said the committee has "looked and canvassed everything that we think would be appropriate in Senate setting."
The Senate has never expelled a senator before and it's not clear whether it has the constitutional authority to do so when the senator in question has not been convicted of any crime.
However, some senators and experts have pointed out that the Constitution does give the Senate and House of Commons the same powers as the British House of Commons, which can permanently expel a member.
The Senate could also suspend Meredith without pay, as was done with senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau when they were under police investigation for alleged irregularities in their expense claims.
Meredith was investigated by police but never charged.
However, a suspension lasts only until the end of a parliamentary session and must be renewed at the start of every new session.
The Canadian Press