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Conservative Linda Frum is quitting the Senate
Aug. 6, 2021
Stephanie Levitz

Linda Frum, one of the most high-profile Conservative women in the country, is resigning from the Senate, the Star has learned.

Frum will retire later this month, 12 years to the day after she was appointed by prime minister Stephen Harper to represent Ontario, and well ahead of the mandatory retirement age of 75.

She told the Star her decision has nothing to do with the likelihood of an upcoming election and uncertainty around how well her party will perform.

In an interview, she said she informed Conservative party Leader Erin O’Toole a year ago that she intended to leave at the end of this summer.

“This is really only about me, and my life, and nothing to do with the leader,” she said.

“I had always known this was a sensible milestone.”

Frum said with the last of her three children off to post-secondary education, she’s transitioning into a new phase of life and wants more time to devote to other causes.

She currently serves as the chair of the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto and said with the rise in antisemitism, she feels compelled to focus her attention on promoting and protecting Jewish life.

“It’s the one hatred that remains socially acceptable still,” Frum said. “I want to drop everything and work on that problem.”

Frum, 58, was a journalist and author prior to her appointment to the Senate. Her mother was the beloved CBC radio host Barbara Frum, and one of her brothers, David, served as a speech writer for former U.S. president George W. Bush.

Her appointment was one of many Harper made over the course of several months in 2008 and 2009 as he sought a Conservative majority in the Senate to bolster his minority in the House of Commons.

Those appointments were controversial, given previous promises he’d turn the Senate into an elected body and some of his appointees were seen as fierce partisans whose selection amounted to patronage.

Several senators from that class would later go on to cause his government problems, among them former journalist Mike Duffy, who eventually ended up in court over accusations taxpayer funds were used for personal matters. He was cleared of all charges.

The Senate sought to reform itself through internal spending controls, and other reforms were imposed from outside; in 2014, as leader of the Liberal party, Justin Trudeau expelled all sitting Liberal senators from his caucus in a move toward a non-partisan Senate.

In an op-ed in the National Post in 2016, Frum argued that move was window-dressing, and the Senate needed an entirely new approach.

“So long as we senators are not elected, our democratic legitimacy depends on government-appointed senators following the leadership of a government that is elected -- and that government, in turn, must honestly acknowledge its responsibility for the actions of the senators it appoints,” she wrote.

Frum was never one to shy away from the spotlight and routinely used social media to poke at the Liberals, or highlight causes that became core to her work in the Senate: removing foreign funding from Canada’s election cycle and human rights advocacy in Iran.

Though never caught up in the same Senate spending scandals as some of her peers, she did find herself on the inside of a recent spending scandal in her own party.

Frum is a director on the Conservative Fund, the powerful and arm’s-length organization that controls the party’s fundraising.

After the 2019 election, tension between the fund and then-party leader Andrew Scheer over his use of party money to cover personal expenses erupted first in private and then in public, eventually becoming a factor in Scheer’s decision to resign.

Frum is also leaving the fund at the end of the summer.

Despite the scandals, Frum said she thinks politicians as a whole receive far more criticism than they deserve, considering how hard many work to help improve the country.

“I worry we have degraded the profession so much that it is not attractive to young people.”