Just a few months ago, Nunavut senator Dennis Patterson was going door-to-door campaigning alongside Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq. Now, in the aftermath of the Liberal sweep, he's changed his tune and says he's eager to work with a Liberal government.
"I think it's a good time for me to be reaching out to the new government," said Patterson, "because the Senate is becoming even less partisan than it was before."
Patterson says he has no problem working across party lines, referencing his years as an MLA in the Northwest Territories' consensus government system prior to the creation of Nunavut.
"We have a tradition in the North of working together in our consensus governments in the legislature," said Patterson. "I had 16 years in a non-partisan system, so I'm quite open myself to working in a non-partisan way."
In his winter newsletter, Patterson devoted a page to congratulating Liberal MP Hunter Tootoo, who defeated Aglukkaq in the recent federal election to become Nunavut's Member of Parliament and, ultimately, Canada's minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
"It's really important I think that the two of us work together," said Patterson, "because we've got lots of needs and a big region that needs to be kept on the national map."
Priorities for Patterson include partnering with Tootoo to help tackle Nunavut's need for infrastructure and housing, as well as supporting the territory's Arctic fisheries.
"I'm looking forward to the new parliament with new optimism and enthusiasm," he said.
'Senators should not be out there campaigning'
However, Jack Anawak, a former Nunavut MLA and MP who ran for the New Democratic Party in the 2015 federal election, says Patterson should have taken a non-partisan approach to his Senate appointment from the start.
"I think the Senate, because it's not elected, should be impartial," said Anawak. "Senators should not be out there campaigning for whatever party, because they should be on the sidelines doing their best for their constituency."
Duff Conacher, the co-founder of Democracy Watch and a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa, said that Patterson, like all federal senators, had a legal right to campaign during an election.
"There is no rule against it," Conacher said.
"They are individuals when an election is on — parliament is closed — and they can be out there doing whatever they want politically."