The Senate resumes an extraordinary debate Thursday on whether to suspend three of its members: Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau.
All three were appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Senators Duffy and Wallin said this week they were pressured to resign by the former Senate leader (a Conservative) and a representative of the Prime Minister’s Office after a series of media reports on their expenses.
A vote is expected as soon as today.
WALLIN DESCRIBES ‘VENDETTA’
Facing a possible suspension from the Senate, Pamela Wallin rose in the Red Chamber on Wednesday to deliver a scathing indictment, saying two former colleagues engaged in a vendetta against her because of her high public profile. During her statement, Ms. Wallin said she was targeted by two Senators for being outspoken in the caucus and occasionally critical of the government. Those Senators were Marjory LeBreton, then-leader of the government in the Senate, and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Mr. Harper’s former chief press secretary.
The real intent behind a motion to suspend her from the Senate, she said, is to appease the Conservatives who will meet a party convention at the end of the month. She said another Senator called her last May and instructed her to quit the Conservative caucus because Mr. Harper “wanted me gone, no discussion.”
She continued: “This issue is no longer about expenses or audits or transparency or accountability or even about the reputation of this chamber – it’s about the abuse of power.”
HARPER ON THE $90,000 QUESTION
Prime Minister Stephen Harper maintained he knew nothing of $90,000 given to Mr. Duffy by Nigel Wright, the Prime Minister’s then chief of staff, which allowed Mr. Duffy to repay housing expenses that were claimed inappropriately. Facing a question from Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair, Mr. Harper reiterated he made statements to the entire Conservative caucus and senior staff, “not just to Mr. Duffy and to Mr. Wright, but to many others who were present.”
Ms. Wallin’s statement comes one day after Mr. Duffy rocked the Red Chamber with assertions that he repaid money only because he was pressured by Conservative senators and the Prime Minister’s Office to do so – under threat of losing his seat.
Mr. Duffy said Tuesday he met privately with Mr. Harper and Mr. Wright – “just the three of us” – after a caucus meeting on Feb. 13 where he insisted that he had not broken any rules.
“But the Prime Minister wasn’t interested in explanations or the truth: It’s not about what you did. It’s about the perception of what you did that has been created by the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base,” Mr. Duffy said.
- Full story
- Audio of Mike Duffy’s speech (mp3)
- Video: Stephen Harper faces Opposition attacks on Senate scandal
- Duffy, Harper and the expenses: Who knew what and when?
MEMBER OF COMMITTEE THAT TARGETED SENATORS STEPS DOWN
Ms. Stewart Olsen, a Conservative senator, stepped down from a subcommittee responsible for producing a series of controversial audits on senators’ expense claims. The group came under scrutiny earlier this year for its handling of a report about Mr. Duffy, which was altered to remove more negative passages used in two other senators’ reports.
In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, Ms. Olsen said “it has been a difficult time” and she would like a change, but said she was also interested in turning her focus to other matters.
“I have been on the committee for some time and we have made rule changes and that was a goal for me,” Ms. Stewart Olsen wrote. “More has to be done of course, but it will happen [because] we are committed to transparency and change. I want to be able to devote more time to my province and to work on regional issues.”
Ms. Olsen is a former press secretary to Mr. Harper who was appointed to the Senate in 2009.
EX-LIBERAL SENATOR INVESTIGATED
The RCMP, which is investigating the three former Conservative senators, expanded its probe Wednesday into expense claims by former Liberal senator Mac Harb.
The Mounties are investigating allegations that Harb declared two largely unused country homes as his primary residences, allowing him to fraudulently claim a Senate housing allowance and living expenses for his supposedly secondary residence in Ottawa – where he had lived for years prior to his 2003 appointment to the Senate and where he continued to spend most of his time. The RCMP are seeking a court order to give investigators access to Harb’s bank records.
Although he has always denied any wrongdoing, Harb resigned from the Senate in August and repaid more than $230,000 in expense claims deemed improper by the upper chamber.
SPLITS AMONG CONSERVATIVE SENATORS
Although the motion to suspend the three senators is coming from the Conservatives, not all of the senators on the Tory side of the chamber agree with it.
Conservative Senator Hugh Segal said the motion is “poorly worded and turns Canada’s Senate chamber into a star chamber.” If it is passed, he said, it means that any future Senate could suspend a colleague who the majority deemed embarrassing or unpopular.
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