Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny resigning months before December retirement date

Longtime Sen. Colin Kenny is calling it quits months before his scheduled retirement, CBC News has confirmed.

Ontario senator, appointed by Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1984, has faced questions about his conduct in office

Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny is retiring from the Senate on Friday, CBC News has confirmed. He was due to reach retirement age in December. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)

Sen. Colin Kenny will resign his seat months before his scheduled retirement date, CBC News has confirmed.

The Senate Speaker's office says it received a letter from Rideau Hall informing Speaker George Furey that Friday will be the Liberal senator's last day.

Kenny was due to retire in December when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75. His departure, therefore, comes 10 months earlier than expected.

In a letter to Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette, dated Jan. 31, Kenny cited ill health as the reason for his resignation.

"I think I have done my bit ... It has been my great privilege to serve my country over the last forty-four years, both in the office of Prime Minister (Pierre) Trudeau and as a member of the Senate," Kenny said in the brief letter, obtained by CBC News.

Kenny, named to the Senate by former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, focused on military, defence and security issues over his 34-year tenure. He recently co-authored a report demanding the government spend more money on the armed forces or risk facing the wrath of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Complaints by former staff

News of Kenny's departure comes a day after his former staffer, Pascale Brisson, wrote an email to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking him to reopen an investigation into her allegations, made in 2013, that Kenny subjected her to sexual harassment.

Kenny denied the allegations at the time and a Senate-appointed investigator cleared him of the allegations. That investigation was criticized for refusing to hear complaints brought forward by other women. In her email to Trudeau, a copy of which was obtained by Radio-Canada, Brisson asks that a new investigation hear from these women as well.

CBC News has requested confirmation from the Prime Minister's Office that it has received the letter. 

A Radio-Canada/CBC News investigation in 2016 revealed Kenny used staff to perform personal tasks around his home and businesses, including booking fitness sessions and ordering lotions and tanning beds for his tanning business.

In May 2017, the former Senate Ethics Officer, Lyse Ricard, launched a preliminary review of Kenny's use of parliamentary resources. A spokesperson for the ethics office confirmed to CBC News Wednesday that a formal inquiry is underway.

Earlier controversy

Kenny has also faced complaints from outside of the Senate.

A former worker at his Ottawa tanning salon business complained to Ottawa Police that Kenny sexually harassed her more than a decade ago, including demanding sexual favours to keep her job, but the matter was dropped because the woman had lied to police in the past on another matter.

Other women who worked at Kenny's business came forward with similar stories after the initial Radio-Canada story on the case.

Radio-Canada also reported Kenny was the subject of a complaint in 2001 by the secretary general of the NATO parliamentary assembly, Simon Lunn, who wrote that Kenny made frequent phone calls to a female intern and female staff member of the organization. Lunn requested Kenny be removed from the Canadian delegation, which did happen.

None of the claims against Kenny have been proven in court.

Kenny was also one of nine senators whom the auditor general of Canada recommended the RCMP investigate over questionable expenses.

In his 2015 report, Michael Ferguson found "the senator paid salaries and benefit expenses to staff for work that may not have been for parliamentary business."

Ferguson stated, "We found that staff performed numerous tasks that were not related to regular office operations, but instead to the Senator's personal activities. These tasks included payments of personal invoices, maintenance of personal books and records, planning of various personal activities, and scheduling of personal appointments."

Kenny later repaid more than $30,000 in expenses that were deemed unjustified.

Three other Senate Liberals have announced early retirements in recent days, including Quebec senators Joan Fraser and Charlie Watt and Alberta Sen. Claudette Tardif.

After these retirements, the Liberal caucus will have just 11 remaining members.

With files from Brigette Bureau and The Canadian Press