Patterson quits Conservatives over Freedom Convoy ties

Nunavut senator says caucus colleagues’ support of Ottawa protest was the ‘last straw’

Sen. Dennis Patterson has left the Conservative Party’s caucus, his office confirmed Friday. (File photo)

By Jeff Pelletier

Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson says the Conservative Party’s support and lack of condemnation of the so-called Freedom Convoy was the “last straw” in his decision to leave his party’s caucus.

Patterson’s office confirmed Friday afternoon he was quitting the Conservative Senate caucus.

The ongoing protest aimed at getting the government to drop vaccine mandates has caused gridlock in downtown Ottawa for the past week.

Patterson, who identifies himself as a progressive “Red Tory,” said he needed to speak out against the presence of Nazi and Confederate flags in the city, as well as acts of “lawlessness.” Such acts included the reported harassment of staff at the Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen and the desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Patterson said.

“I’m very disappointed that we’re not seeing a condemnation of the continued occupation of the Ottawa downtown core as an illegal and disruptive act,” he said in a phone interview, a few hours after his office confirmed he was leaving the Conservative caucus.

“The convoy isn’t the only reason for me leaving … it was the last straw,” he said.

Patterson said he’s embarrassed by the behaviour of several Conservative politicians who have publicly supported the occupation and posed for pictures with the convoy protestors.

A group of Saskatchewan parliamentarians, including former party leader Andrew Scheer and Senate colleague Denise Batters, posed for a photo in front of a truck with their province’s flag.

The photo was posted by Saskatoon-Grasswood MP Kevin Waugh, who called the occupation “patriotic.” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson responded by calling the photo-op “an absolute disgrace.”

“This is not the party I joined as a very young man, this is not the party of John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney,” he said. “I cannot tolerate any longer or stay silent any longer on this behaviour, which is so embarrassing and I think so uncharacteristic of the history of our great party.”

Because Ottawa has the largest Inuit population in southern Canada, Patterson said Nunavummiut have expressed anger regarding the symbols that have been used in the protest, as well as concern for family members who live, work and study in the capital.

“As a representative of those folks in Parliament in Ottawa, I was very compelled to act from their messages of concern and advice to me,” he said.

Although he is leaving the Conservative caucus, Patterson said he will maintain his party membership in hopes that he can help move the party in a progressive direction.

Patterson joined the Canadian Senators Group, which identifies itself as “research-based” and centred around the “long-term analysis of public policy matters.” The senators in this group were appointed by every prime minister since Jean Chrétien.

Sen. Scott Tannas, the leader of the Canadian Senators Group, said Patterson “always had a healthy respect for partisans on all sides, and I know he will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of people throughout Canada’s North as a member of the CSG.”

Sen. Donald Plett, the Senate Conservative leader, said Patterson’s defection “unfortunate” and called him a “valued, contributing” caucus member over 12 years.

Patterson voiced his support for federal, provincial and territorial public health measures as Canada continues to battle COVID-19. Notably, he praised the work of Nunavut’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson (no relation), and all Nunavummiut who have gotten vaccinated and continue to follow the advice of medical professionals.

At the same time, the 73-year-old senator, who said that he is immunocompromised, called out the politicians in his party who speak out against public health restrictions.

“I have not been happy with the lack of clarity in the position of our Conservative caucus on those issues and a refusal to endorse vaccine mandates, and otherwise, a lack of clarity for the support of public health officers nationally and across the country,” he said.

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(61) Comments:

  1. Posted by Bert Rose on

    Thank you Senator Patterson.

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    • Posted by Dr Patterson on

      Make nunavut great again

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    • Posted by Peter M on

      Let’s thank him when resigns from the Senate, like he promised he would!

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  2. Posted by John K on

    This is great news.

    I hope we see a split on the right. The monolithic Conservative Party we currently have uses it’s big tent status and subsequent voter share to game our already ineffectual First Past the Post electoral system. Having two smaller right wing parties (PPC could fill this role for the more extreme although they seem to be sticking with CPC) would result in election results that are more representative of Canada’s population and hopefully put an end to Conservative majorities with 25% of the vote.

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    • Posted by Pork Pie on

      You’re not being fair here John, you know you could swap out ‘Conservative’ for ‘Liberal’ in your post and it would still retain its truth.

      How can you pin the flaws of the FPTP one the Conservatives alone? It certainly didn’t hand them electoral victory last October, despite having a slim plurality of the popular vote. Maybe the electoral system itself is the problem?

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      • Posted by Eric on

        He’s being completed fair, the Liberals have the NDP and the Greens to share the left wing vote with. If the NDP and the Greens didn’t exist the Liberals would have easily won a majority. The cons have no real competition for the right wing vote other than a fringe party.

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        • Posted by Pork Pie on

          He has a point, which I admit i somehow missed at first.

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      • Posted by Brad Chambers on

        Well, you’re both right. You both agree the electoral system is the problem and that is the bottom line. Yes, the Liberals take advantage and it works for them. The Conservatives need to try and cast a wide tent if they even want to win power in our system, even though it makes for awkward companions in the party. It is hard to convince a party to split in 2, but with a more proportional voting system, the Conservative Party could split and the two halves could work together in parliament but still be true to their base, and they’d be bigger ovrall. The left wants electoral reform, but so should the right.

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      • Posted by Graham on

        He’s right progressive left voters are split between liberals, NDp, green and Bloc in Quebec in fact if the bloc wasn’t so strong in 2019; the liberals would have gotten a majority.
        If the liberals were able to get even half of the NDP support they would easily beat the combined PPC/conservative vote.
        The electoral system is not the problem the parties are. With every major party having an environmental plan is there a need for the Green Party at all…..

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        • Posted by Pork Pie on

          Graham, your sentiment suggests you’re frustrated, as a Liberal, at so many ‘progressive’ votes being thrown away on undeserving, superfluous parties who shouldn’t even exist.

          The problem seems to be a misunderstanding that the idea of the “progressive left” is reasonably uniform and coherent to begin with, let alone monolithic. Liberal hubris is prone to dismissing other camps in this way though.

          “How dare you complicate our inherent right to govern.”

          In reality differences between those parties can be and often are significant, and the rivalry between them often very bitter.

          To me they exist as an organic expression of very different interests and interpretations of the world. To argue for a political duopoly (which appears to be where your argument leads, correct me if I am wrong here), as we see in the US, and is riddled with dysfunction, is to take very a reductive view.

          Again, the multiparty system is organic, the political system that divides power unevenly in relation to the popular vote is not organic. Granted, how we conceive of the proper distribution of power across a huge multi-regional state is not an easy question to answer.

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          • Posted by Graham on

            I wouldn’t deny I am a blue Liberal; I voted for Ford provincially in 2018 and plan to vote for him again in 2022. Federally conservatives haven’t been an option since 2011.
            I do stand by my opinion that the Green Party has had its day. The bloc while important to Quebec; they live up to their name of Blocing things. A protest vote that can have big sway in minority parliaments. 3 party system allows us to have real policy debates and decreases the possibility of constant minority parliaments.

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            • Posted by The Old Trapper on

              Sorry to hear that you will again be voting for Doug Ford. I agree that Wynne and the Liberals needed to go, they had reached the time when a party in power becomes arrogant and were doing more harm than good for the province. Ford looked to be the best alternative at the time.
              .
              With the Covid-19 pandemic he has however proven that he is incompetent. His inaction, ignorance, and incompetent decisions can be directly linked to numerous deaths in long term care homes, and even in hospitals today.
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              Although the choices are not great I would hope for a NDP led minority with the Liberals. I just wish that either of these parties had a true leader but it appears that most suitable candidates shun the political arena these days. Can’t say that I blame them.

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        • Posted by Yes on

          There is a need for a green party. The liberals and ndp are only green on the surface; their respective bases have other priorities. The conservatives do not believe climate change is a concern. Only the greens had a platform that was bold enough to adequately address climate change impacts. 15 or more yrs ago the greens were actively promoting themselves as a party that was neither on the political right or left; they were trying to appeal to both; likely to attract more votes; but they changed that strategy, making them less distinguishable from the two parties that started to include green ideas in their platforms, largely to take the green vote away I assume. Anyone knows why our politics are still stuck in the cold war rut of left versus right? It is such a tired political divide. And the western world has tried both and neither works. No wonder people do not vote that much.

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          • Posted by scott on

            I remember when the green party was more conservative-leaning towards certain things and more liberal on others – I actually voted for them back then. Too bad they didn’t stick to that philosophy.

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            • Posted by Green Machine on

              I recall those days too, and voted for them at the time as well. I haven’t entirely given up on them, but I would like to see them recalibrate in that direction again also.

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    • Posted by Little Boy Attitude on

      John K. You will be very very hard pressed to find a replacement who has done so much and cared so much for Nunavut. Was he white? Of course he was but I can assure you and this would be hard to set into your tough little boy attitude thought process. Hoping the words are not to long for you. There isn’t a person in the territory that can or will fill the shoes that this man has worn.
      This thinking is why the country is in such disarray right now in the South. People like you wanting change that you don’t understand what change is for the good of mankind. Get vaccinated.

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  3. Posted by Keith on

    Damn right. Anyone who brings a Nazi flag to wave around or is willing to consider such a person as an ally deserves nothing but contempt.

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    • Posted by Let’s Be Real on

      These kinds of protests always attract fringe elements, no matter who is hosting the protest and no matter what the cause. That does not indicate that the entire movement is affiliated with NAZI’s or, as much of our lazy media would have you believe ‘White Supremacists” Ooo! Scary!

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      • Posted by Fine let’s get real on

        I’ve been to many protests. If someone ever showed up with a Nazi flag they’d be forced out immediately.

        The fact that this movement is willing to allow these ‘fringe elements’ among their ranks speaks volumes. If you’re willing to allow Nazis in your ranks, you’re nothing but trash.

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      • Posted by Observer on

        How often have you seen these “fringe elements” at other protests be allowed to walk along with a Member of Parliament?

        Why did no one at the protest themselves tell the racists (and if you’re waving one of those flags, you’re acting like a racist, so expect to be treated as one) that they were not welcome and force them to leave? What, they weren’t white supremacists themselves but hey, they’re okay with it?

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        • Posted by MARS on

          Please research before commenting these inaccuracies. Your comment is exactly what every single person who does not support the convoy says. The information is out there on how protestors handled these scumbags, without violence I might add, but nobody cares about that as they only hear and see what fits their agenda.

          There are plenty of videos showing protestors and organizers telling these racists to leave as they were not welcome. They called out Nazi symbols, confederate flags and any other symbols of hate.

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          • Posted by Jennifer on

            True that. In fact True North News has had a 6k reward up since the incident to identify the person. Tnc.news

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          • Posted by Mary Ashton-Groulx on

            If you watch the many videos posted by the organizers watch for one before the convoy left BC where the lead driver is walking around his truck in his shop talking about the convoy. Then stop focusing on him and look at the walls of his shop. Next to a large John Deere flag there are 2 Confederate flags. This is one if the organizers now claiming that those waving Confederate flags were unwelcome plants by Trudeau. A bit hypocrite and a lit whitr supremacist

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            • Posted by Melanie Costa on

              This, and I’d also like to point out a clear difference that people keep on forgetting: there is a difference between PARTICIPATING IN and STARTING something. If you want to argue that “fringe extremists” always exist in every protest, go for it, but don’t ignore the fact that this was STARTED by known racists/white supremacists. So in actuality, it’s not that these people just joined the protest just because – they felt comfortable with their racism because they knew who the organizers were.

      • Posted by Mildred Pierce on

        Nope. You are just wrong, or have been watching too much Fox. It is not usual for ACTUAL FREAKING NAZIS to show up at a protest. And if Nazis want to jump on a bandwagon, you have to ask yourself “am I the villain in this story?”. Yes, yes you are.

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  4. Posted by unniii on

    uniiruluk, he’s not from Nunavut, BC resident. Doesn’t represent us anyway shape or form.

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    • Posted by Kenn Harper on

      He is not a BC resident. He is a Nunavut resident. Open your eyes.

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      • Posted by Paul Fraser on

        Thanks Kenn! Education is the best way to fight ignorance.

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  5. Posted by well now on

    This is a very interesting development in national politics. Senator Patterson has always struck me as very smart and strategic but rather self-serving. Maybe Patterson has finally hit his limit with this nonsense. More likely, I think he’s realized that, by throwing their support behind this convoy, the Conservatives have become a losing team.

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  6. Posted by Larry G. on

    I wonder if the same group of “freedom seekers” ,protesting government policies, designed to help the country, will also be as determined to refuse any government support offered to individuals and small business due to covid and of course will not avail themselves of the free health system if they are infected. However, if you take food from the homeless your position has already been stated. Further they will not burden honest, hard working, law abiding citizens with any more of their nonsense. Besides where we they truck, since the US is also enforcing the same policies. Any politician that aligns themselves with this nonsense is simply fanning the flames in a desperate attempt to make the headlines. Thank you Senator.

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    • Posted by Vaccinated b’y. on

      The government support, you sir, are talking about will be the financial burden for many generations to come. Free health system? You mean the health system we as a tax payers pay for including those truckers? Nothing in this world is free. These mandates are taking food from everybody not just the homeless. BTW, the shelter on Prince Edward has received donations from these same ” hooligans” the second day they arrived.But of course, you won’t see that on the government funded television, so I get it when you make such statements because you only see one sided story. True, US has similar mandates for truckers. If fringe minority wants these mandates to be changed they have to start from somewhere. Crap rolls down the hill kind sir. No burden on hard working citizens? These same people have worked during this entire time to provide for us, so besides healthcare staff, I really don’t know who worked harder than them. Maybe you did? Of course you did. Your fingers must be really hurting from all that office typing work.

      If you and others with same thoughts want to live with endless mandates and lockdowns every time a new variant comes up, be my guest.
      ….and, if course, thank you for your hard work as a productive member of our society.

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  7. Posted by Kenn Harper on

    Congratulations to Senator Patterson. A good decision by the politician who works harder for the interests of Nunavummiut than any other politician anywhere.

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    • Posted by Our time is now! on

      This comment made me laugh.

      This is our future now. You had your time and fun, and lots of it.

      Time to let the young and strong make our future.

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      • Posted by Joseph on

        This is laughable. I like how Patterson is taking a big ethical stand only now. Remember when he promised to limit is term to eight years – and then that turned out to be a complete lie? Selective ethics, it seems.

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  8. Posted by Put boots on the ground on

    Maybe it’s time for you to put boots on the ground and see exactly what is happening in Ottawa and talk with those involved before slamming and shaming. It’s easy to be an armchair critic – typical politician!! All talk & no action!!

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  9. Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

    Don’t be fooled here. Dennis Patterson is a self serving politician right until the bitter end. Patterson is a conservative. He was appointed to the Senate by a conservative government. If he was guided by honour and integrity as opposed to self interest and opportunism, he would have resigned today and let the Liberal government appoint a replacement. BUT NO, he doesn’t do that!! He just leaves the conservative caucus so that he can keep his cushy job while leaving the appearance with people that he acted on principle. YOU DIDN’T FOOL ME SENATOR. SHAME!!

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  10. Posted by Charlotte Borg on

    Well done Dennis! Thank you for your integrity and thank you for speaking up! And may I say I admire your ability to pivot for integrity and political principles.

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    • Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

      Yes, Dennis is very skilled at pivoting when it comes to integrity and principles. Another great example is when he accepted his Senate appointment by Prime Minister Harper on the basis that he would only serve for a five or ten year term. You see, Harper wanted term limits for Senators in an effort to advance Senate reform. In Typical Patterson fashion, he reneged -or should I say he pivoted away from that understanding when Harper was no longer in office. So your right, Dennis certainly knows how to pivot, and he certainly always ends up on top when he does

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      • Posted by Kenn Harper on

        You are completely wrong. Stephen Harper appointed him and asked him to agree to resign after 8 years if Harper was successful in bringing in term limits for the Senate, one of Harper’s key goals for Senate reform. Harper did not succeed in bringing in term limits, so Patterson was under no obligation to resign. As a result Nunavut has had effective representation in the Senate ever since, by the hardest-working politician the North has ever had or is ever likely to have.

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        • Posted by Do not try to rewrite our history Kenn on

          This Vancouver resident Senator has not served Inuit in Nunavut well. This man was one of the leaders to stop UNDRIP from being approved in our country. A universal declaration stating Indigenous peoples are equal and deserve the same treatment as other citizens. This man and his party cut much needed healing services for indigenous citizens when he was in power. We look forward to a new day, when this man is gone from our lives and we can focus on better representation.

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    • Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

      Yes, the good Senator pivots very well. He was initially appointed by Prime Minister Harper on the understanding that he would serve a 5 or 10 year term. This was Harper’s senate reform initiative. After Harper was defeated the good Senator pivoted and reneged on the understanding that he no longer had to honour. He is indeed an expert at pivoting to ensure he ends up on top.

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  11. Posted by Forever Amazed on

    I don’t see this as any great loss.

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  12. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I am often a harsh critic of Senator Patterson, but in this instance I can only applaud his actions.
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    It may well be only a few demonstrators flying Nazi, Trump, and Confederate Battle flags, and defacing the statue of a real Canadian hero – Terry Fox, yet that should be enough for any politician to distance themselves from the demonstrators.
    .
    But even worse in my estimation was the desecration of the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
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    Every single Canadian should be outraged. I hope that the RCMP find and charge the people responsible.

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  13. Posted by Paul Fraser on

    Bravo Dennis! Thank you for speaking out on behalf of Canada’s majority. A civilized society needs to distance itself from idiocy – not embrace it.

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  14. Posted by SJW on

    Bye, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Forgot you even existed, or that you even had any ties to Nunavut.

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  15. Posted by Graham White on

    Even if … even if we ignore the swastikas, confederate flags and white supremiscists, consider the many businesses that have closed, the hundreds of people in Ottawa whose jobs have been put on hold, getting no pay, and the people who live in the area with the truckers who honk their horns all night and intimidate local residents. Do these freedom fighters care about them? Nope. This small minority of self-proclaimed freedom fighters says they’re not leaving til the elected governments change policies to suit their ignorant views. Who elected them to hold the country hostage? Why don’t these wannabe Trumpites just head down to the USA? Oh, right, the Americans have instituted the same vax requirements that Canada has.

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  16. Posted by Kugluktuk Supporter on

    BRAVO MR. PATTERSON!
    We are proud of your actions and support you 100%

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  17. Posted by Dave Yeudall on

    I find Mr Patterson’s comments highly prejudicial and ignorant. How can he slander an entire group of 10K people based on the actions of a handful of people and think that it’s all right to do? If someone judged all Inuit based on the actions of a few, that individual would be a racist. Maybe all Liberals should be called racist since Justin is a serial black face offender.

    It’s not alright to judge all people in a group based on a few bad actors. Mr Patterson should know better than to do it.

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    • Posted by MARS on

      This is the new ‘liberal’ way.

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    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      When the bad actors are racists, white supremacists and fascists and they are tacitly allowed to contibue to participate we have every right to judge the entire movement by those actions.

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  18. Posted by Bye bye Patterson already on

    Your time has come and gone long ago. Go enjoy your retirement in British Columbia as you are so out of place anywhere now. You don’t even have a caucus to call home. At least you will be gone by next at the latest so we can have a real Nunavut resident represent us perhaps.

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  19. Posted by Good call on

    Dennis being on the inside knows when the party is falling apart and the reform far right party is taking over the progressive conservatives party. Even he has a conscious and can’t be a part of this reform party group. Maybe it’s time to split the two parties back to how they were.

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  20. Posted by Joe and Joanne Ronsley on

    I don’t know if you will remember us, Dennis, but we were close friends of your dad’s, and met you on several occasions at his home on Pilot House Road. Of course we were always more Liberal than he was, but we’re sure he would have been with you on this. We were very pleased to read it, and to be ‘in touch with you’ again. Congratulations.
    Best regards to you and your family,
    Joe and Joanne Ronsley

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  21. Posted by Isn’t justa few baddies on

    Senator Patterson has done exactly the right thing. He’s done it for, in the name of and at the request of Nunnavummiut. I am sure it was a difficult decision for him at this stage of his career.

    Nunavummiut should be aware that “white” tribal regalia was on display throughout Edmonton today. Anyone with internet access can easily verify.

    This is abhorrent and should not be tolerated anywhere in this Nation, by anyone.

    If a Nazi comes in to your Bar, and you don’t kick him out, you’re running a Nazi bar. If your other patrons don’t leave, they are Nazi’s too, doesn’t matter who’s birthday they came in to celebrate. Nazi Bar. Nazi event. Make your decisions accordingly.

    Thank you for leaving the Bar, Senator Patterson. And thank you for your long service, sir.

    We’re about to find out what the Conservative Party is really made of anymore, throughout this country. Everyone pay close attention.

    Isn’t justa few

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  22. Posted by Senate Cynic on

    Nunavut must be the only jurisdiction where anyone cares about their Senator. Since a young age and the senate reform issue coming up with Harper and Trudeau abandoning it despite it being an election promise it has been clear to me that the office is a place to let party supporters ride out $200k compensation into retirement. It has no power or actual function. It is telling that Nunavut has so little leadership that people are fixated on this guy, who is the only figure who can articulate a position and had staying power. The rest of MLAs and MPs over my time in Nunavut are useless and forgettable.

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  23. Posted by Trevor Laing on

    i would just like to say it is about time a politician stands up for what is right. I usually give monies to the conservative party yearly as do a group of my friends about 10. anyways we are deeply disturbed about recent support by American interests for this and right wing and raciest groups. No future donations will be forth coming to the conservative party now and into the future and if we can support you in any mean please let us or me know.
    Thank you for being a lion

    Trevor Laing

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    • Posted by Ken on

      This is what happens when you merge two parties the Reform party and the Progressive Conservatives as one party, depending on the numbers sometimes one side will gain more power and this is the case here, the Reform side has more numbers and the PC have been struggling to keep them in check, we may see more PC members leaving. Traditional Progressive Conservatives are closer to the centre right and they will not agree with the Reformers thinking.
      Might be time to think about taking back their party and splitting ways with the extreme right.

  24. Posted by ChesLey on

    Politicians being on the take and of not taking the concerns of the public over the interests of donors is why democracy is failing us.

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    • Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

      Are you suggesting the Senator is/was “on the take”??
      If so, it would be more convincing if you used your full name so he could take you to court.
      He and Leona did and do more for Nunavut than the combined total of the past three MPs will ever do.
      You folks need to get your facts straight before posting here.

      • Posted by Imagine the emoji on

        Murphy eggplant for Leona

      • Posted by The Old Trapper on

        The only thing that I can recall Senator Patterson accomplishing was to delay the Federal Cannabis legislation by about 4 months with his outdated conservative views. This cost provincial and territorial governments hundreds of thousands in taxes, while stroking his ego.
        .
        Let’s no get too carried away with praise, after all it should be pretty easy to opposed idiots who will desecrate the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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