As a senator, Andre Pratte hopes to avoid the 'trap' of lying
Journalist and author Andre Pratte autographs copies of the book 'Reconquerir Le Canada' (Reconquering Canada), a new pro-federalist collection of essays, at the launch in Montreal on Nov. 8, 2007. (Ryan Remiorz / The Canadian Press)
Melanie Marquis, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, March 19, 2016 6:07PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Future senator Andre Pratte admits he's always described lying as an inevitable part of the political system. But now that he's joining the world of politics himself, he hopes his status as an independent parliamentarian will allow him to avoid falling into that trap.
Pratte, who worked in media for 37 years, notably as an editorial writer for Montreal's La Presse newspaper, is one of seven new senators named by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.
Pratte's 1997 essay on lies in politics -- whose title translates to "Pinocchio syndrome" -- made waves in Quebec and earned the author a motion of censure in Quebec's legislature.
"Politicians who don't lie? Impossible," he concluded in a book he wrote after a stint working as a Parliamentary correspondent -- an institution he described as "the temple of lies" in the same book.
When asked if he feels the same about politicians now that he's becoming one, he jokingly tried to duck the question.
"I'm not a politician yet, since I haven't been sworn in as a senator yet," he said. "Is that a clever way out?"
He answered his own question with a "no" and a laugh.
"I don't know how I'll get out of this one. Honestly, I don't know," he said. "The status of independent senator, I hope, will allow us to say the truth all the time. I hope. Honestly, I hope. But maybe I'm very naive."
As independent senators, the new appointees won't have to follow party lines or respect cabinet decisions, which creates a "duty to lie" for those who are subject to it, the former journalist argued.
"As independent senators, in principle, we vote according to our conscience all the time," he said. "That's what appeals to me about the changes Mr. Trudeau has brought: there is no party line."
He suggested the changes could lead to a "completely difference presence" in the legislative process.
Pratte said he decided to take the plunge into politics after some friends suggested he apply for a senate post. He said he had never considered the possibility before, but was attracted in part by the Liberal party's attempts to turn the upper chamber into a more reputable, less-partisan body.
As a result, he found himself on a 25-person list created for the prime minister by a new arm's-length advisory board. He learned last week that Trudeau would recommend his nomination to Governor General David Johnston.
Pratte is now looking to purchase property in Salaberry, the Quebec senatorial division he will represent. The Constitution requires him to acquire land or a building worth at least $4,000.
Following his swearing-in, Pratte will begin his second career, but not without some trepidation. Pratte says he worries about "not meeting the standards I imposed on others during my editorial career," he said.
"Because now, of course, people will do exactly what you just did with the lie, and with good reason: they'll throw it back in my face saying 'Hey, you said it was necessary to do that in politics, now you're in and that's not what you're doing," he said.
The interim leader of the Bloc Quebecois was quick to express his displeasure over nomination of Pratte, an ardent federalist.
"Let's hope that Andre Pratte the senator remembers he is non-elected, and won't put himself above the democratic choices of Quebec as Andre Pratte the editorialist could afford to do," Rheal Fortin said.
"His new role is to serve Quebec, not to tell it what to think."