Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he salutes the RCMP for an investigation that has led to charges being laid against one of the senators he appointed.
Mr. Harper made the comments on Tuesday after the RCMP laid fraud and breach of trust charges against Senator Patrick Brazeau, appointed as a Conservative, and retired senator Mac Harb, an ex-Liberal. He appointed Mr. Brazeau, who was suspended from the Senate late last year.
“We obviously salute and acknowledge the work of the RCMP on these particular cases,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Harper again distanced himself from the investigation, declining to say whether he will put pressure on Brunei to force one of its diplomats – Magdalene Teo, who is tied to the Harb investigation – to speak with police. The RCMP has said Ms. Teo has so far refused to do so, and has reached out to the Foreign Affairs Department for help. Mr. Harper avoided commenting on her case last week.
Asked again about Ms. Teo in Question Period on Tuesday, Mr. Harper said: “The RCMP has the authority to conduct these investigations and to hold anybody who does not respect the rule of law responsible. That is what is being done, Mr. Speaker, and of course they will get full co-operation from the government.”
“For the second time, he’s refusing to actually do anything,” NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said of the Prime Minister.
After Question Period, Mr. Mulcair said Ms. Teo’s testimony could be critical to the Harb case.
“We keep asking the question and all they keep saying is that they have confidence in the RCMP. So do we," Mr. Mulcair said. "But the question is, has the Government of Brunei co-operated? And from all the information that we have, the answer is no. So the simple question is, why are the Conservatives not asking the Government of Brunei to cooperate in the investigation?”
The cases are based largely on the housing expenses of Mr. Harb and Mr. Brazeau, each of whom declared primary residences just outside the Ottawa area, thereby becoming eligible to claim additional expenses for residences in the Ottawa region.
Mr. Mulcair suggested that the problem in the senators’ cases stems from their not living in the regions they are meant to represent, but Mr. Harper rejected that, saying it’s common for parliamentarians to have two residences.
“That’s not what is at issue here, Mr. Speaker. What is at issue is that there are clear rules to be followed in terms of the public trust, the use of public money and the claiming of expenses. When those rules are not followed, we have tough measures in place to deal with that. The RCMP has acted, and we congratulate them,” he said.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau welcomed the investigation, which saw a former Liberal senator charged. Mr. Harb had been sitting as an independent before retiring in August. He has repaid a total of $231,649.07 in claims.
“I trust that justice will be served and that, if anybody is found guilty of wrongdoing, they will be punished,” Mr. Trudeau said.
Mr. Harb has pledged that he will fight the two charges.