Politics

Vern White is resigning from the Senate, moving to Finland

Sen. Vern White is resigning from the Senate and moving to Finland — well before the upper chamber's mandatory retirement age of 75.

White, 63, said it was always his intention to leave Senate before mandatory retirement age

Senator Vern White, a former RCMP officer and chief of police in Durham and Ottawa, is resigning from the Senate after 10 years in the upper chamber. (Kimberley Molina/CBC)

Sen. Vern White is resigning from the Senate and moving to Finland — well before the upper chamber's mandatory retirement age of 75.

White, 63, will officially leave the Senate on October 2.

Then-prime minister Stephen Harper appointed White in 2012 as a Conservative representing Ontario. White has been sitting with the non-partisan Canadian Senators Group since 2019.

White said he always intended to resign before reaching the Senate's retirement age.

The resignation was first reported by The Hill Times.

"When I came to the Senate … I said I felt it would be a six- to nine-year job," White said.

"I never thought I'd serve until 75 like some people speak about. I always felt it would be a term, like I've done with most of my jobs."

White says he's moving to Finland, where his daughter is going to school and his family has a home.

White travelled to the country in 2021 to visit his spouse's family, even though officials were warning against any non-essential travel due to the pandemic.

White was a police officer before his appointment. He joined the RCMP in 1981 as a constable. He rose to the rank of assistant commissioner before retiring from the Mounties in 2005.

He then became chief of the Durham Regional Police Service before being named Ottawa's chief of police in 2007. He served in that position until his Senate appointment in 2012.

Senator preferred policing over Parliament

White said that while he enjoyed some of his work in the Senate and will miss his colleagues there, he liked policing more than Parliament.

"I won't miss the Senate as such. From my perspective, it's not a place I fell in love with. Policing I probably loved, I never fell in love with the Senate," White said.

"In law enforcement I felt you could make a difference quickly ... I felt the Senate — as one senator told me — you nudge things forward. I've never been great at nudging."

The Canadian Senators Group was created in 2019 and White was one of its founding members. The group formed with the goal of focusing on regional interests in Parliament and taking a research-based, non-partisan approach to legislation.

White said working in a non-partisan group allowed him to focus on areas he's passionate about, such as addressing drug addiction and the opioid epidemic.

"I do feel that we were able to pursue our own areas of interest," White said.

"For me it was around opioids, in particular in the last four or five years, and the need for a dramatic shift in how we deal with opioid addiction and overdoses."

White, a former Conservative senator, said more Conservative senators may cross the floor to one of the chamber's non-partisan groups in the future.

"I think it will depend on how the Conservative Party moves forward over the next year or two," he said.

"If there's a movement, I think it will be bigger than the Senate. I think it'll be a movement of Canadians trying to find a place if they don't feel the Conservative Party is their voice."

The Senate of Canada building and Senate Chamber are pictured in Ottawa on Monday, Feb. 18, 2019. Sen. Vern White, who is resigning from the chamber, says working in a non-partisan group allowed him more freedom to work in areas he's passionate about. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Conservative Party members chose long-time member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre as leader earlier this month. Alain Rayes, a Quebec MP, left the party shortly after, citing conflicts with Poilievre's ideals and values. Rayes now sits as an independent.

Earlier this year, a new organization — "Centre Ice Conservatives" — emerged as a voice for centrist Conservatives who are unsatisfied with the party's direction. The group is now known as Centre Ice Canadians.

White's departure from the Senate will create a vacancy on the government-appointed National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP).

White said he's looking forward to new opportunities.

"I'm still humbled and honoured to have had an opportunity to serve in the Canadian Senate," White said.

"I'm leaving with good thoughts. I'm looking for my next big adventure more than anything else."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Richard Raycraft

Web writer and producer

Richard is a web writer with CBC News and an associate producer with CBC Radio. He's worked at CBC in London, Ont., Toronto, Windsor, Kitchener-Waterloo and Ottawa.

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