The Senate, tortuously and belatedly, has arrived at a fair disposition of the expenses improprieties of Senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau. It was also right to separate the three motions to suspend them for “gross negligence.” They are not three peas in a pod; the votes were slightly different, and should have been. Their cases were related, but not exactly the same.
It would have been easy – but wrong – for the Senate to have washed its hands of these matters, leaving the allegations to be investigated solely by the RCMP. The Senate had to deal with what that Senate created.
What remains unresolved is the bigger story: the role of the Prime Minister’s Office in ineffective, and sometimes heavy-handed, attempts to avoid embarrassment to the Conservative government. Stephen Harper himself has made varying, difficult-to-reconcile statements about his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright. The intentions surrounding at least two payments to Senator Duffy are as unclear as when they first emerged into daylight. The Senate addressed the matter of the inappropriately spending senators; Mr. Harper has not fully addressed the glaring questions about his office’s role in the scandal.
The Senate haltingly, but in the end effectively, dealt with the expenses-claim controversy. It has set a precedent. And it’s one that, we hope, will not need to be invoked for a long time to come.