On Wednesday, Senator Pamela Wallin spoke to the Senate to defend herself from a motion that would suspend her and two others from the Red Chamber without pay because of an expenses scandal. Below are her prepared remarks. For audio of Ms. Wallin's speech, go here.
I rise to comment on Senator Cowan’s motion for special hearings.
I have long called for an open, fair, transparent process.
But I want to make it very clear that I need to be sure that the protections afforded me are the same as a proceeding before a court – the right to counsel who would be permitted to speak on my behalf; the right of my counsel to call or subpoena witnesses and to cross-examine witnesses; the right to have my counsel question me to outline my evidence before any cross examination; the right of my counsel to object to irrelevant or inflammatory questions; the right to make final submissions … and of course the right to an open-minded jury.
These protections are necessary given the palpable apprehension of bias in what I contend is a purely politically motivated set of charges in a chamber that has not demonstrated it is prepared to rise above party politics.
My very real concern remains the nature of the sanctions the Government intends to impose – suspension – or more accurately expulsion – without pay, no resources or benefits, including no health benefits – and that is a troubling prospect for a cancer survivor – so any hearing or process undertaken must provide the same procedural safeguards as a court of law.
The motion to suspend me is baseless and premature, and likely beyond the scope of this chamber.
The Internal Economy and Deloitte reports have not yet been tabled here and the language of the motion is neither justified nor accurate – you cannot concoct false charges on a whim.
The Government, through Senator Carignan, has truly put the cart before the horse – the sentencing before the trial – and that is why it would be both unfair and troubling if his motion proceeds.
If it does, each and every one of you will seriously have to consider whether this is a place of sober second thought, or a place where anyone who enters must blindly follow a political master’s dictates.
The rule of law would have to be ignored by each and every one of you who decides to vote for the motion.
Some have suggested that some day I will get my day in court.
Everyone knows the RCMP has been called in to investigate.
So why try and convict me here and now.
Why would we not await the outcome of that process – you are the ones that called the RCMP in in the first place – you even sent them your report – you won’t even wait for the investigation to conclude.
Why is the Senate acting as accuser, judge, jury and executioner before I’ve had that day in court?
That is exactly why this whole process is flawed.
And if this chamber can take this extreme action with regard to a sitting senator, imagine what it could do to an ordinary citizen who crosses the government of the day.
We live in a nation that has a Charter or Rights and Freedoms that applies to every law and every citizen.
For the Senate of Canada, itself a creation of our Constitution, to decide that the constitutional protections afforded to each and every Canadian are to be disregarded here is to bring the Senate itself into disrepute.
We have spent centuries evolving away from the divine rule of kings. Due process and the rule of law are all we have to protect us from the tyranny of those with power and from the passion of the mob.
When a government chooses to flout due process to go after a perceived enemy, it’s very hard to fight it.
And for this chamber to attempt to impose a legal sanction is beyond your constitutional powers – surely you must know that.
“Gross negligence”, as any lawyer will tell you, is a very specific legal term with a very specific and serious meaning.
This is a decision for the courts, or a formal judicial hearing, not for this chamber.
By throwing a member of this Senate under the bus, finding her guilty without a fair hearing such as any other Canadian could expect – a right guaranteed us by the Charter – to proceed without the evidence having been adduced and considered on which the charge in the motion is based – is a fundamental affront to Canadian democracy – and makes a mockery of this chamber.
This charade is supposedly about preserving the reputation of this place – but the real intent is to remove a perceived liability – namely me.
“Gross negligence” is not found in Internal Economy’s nor Deloitte’s reports – although you don’t officially know that because neither has been tabled and debated here.
This issue is no longer about expenses or audits or transparency or accountability or even about the reputation of this chamber – it about the abuse of power.
If, as I suspect, Senator Carignan is taking direction from the PMO, then this process is not in the interests of an independent, functioning and effective Senate – although it is most clearly in the interests of those who want to abolish this chamber.
It’s also designed to appease the party faithful before the Conservative party convention at the end of the month.
It is intended to intimidate – not only me but others in this chamber. It is about political expediency – to get rid of someone it considers to be a political liability.
They are doing this based on negative public opinion whipped up by the news media who used confidential and sometimes personal information leaked to them by members of this chamber – at least that is what I have been told by some knowledgeable people.
These were targeted leaks, many of them incorrect, designed to cast my conduct in the worst possible light.
They were personal and vindictive – and violated all the rules of this place.
My lawyer wrote to the Senate and to the chair of the subcommittee months ago asking for an investigation into 14 documented leaks – there were many more – but we never even received a reply – and of course there was no investigation.
We are entitled to that investigation under the rules.
We believe those leaks were orchestrated in large measure by Senators LeBreton and Stewart-Olsen.
This whole proceeding against me, plus the leaks and the lack of an opportunity and legitimate forum in which to defend myself is backroom politics of the most odious kind – rooting out those that have fallen from favor or sending them into exile – it is, as my lawyer has said, Kafka-esque.
For example, one of the senators who sits in judgment of all of us, who had her sights trained on me from the beginning, Senator Stewart-Olsen, has recently had questions raised about her own probity in relation to her residential expense claims.
But of course there will be no Deloitte audit in her case.
Apparently, the Committee on Internal Economy, of which she has long been a member, intends to consider her matter in private.
This is a double standard – she gets kid glove treatment and I’m unfairly singled out for a retroactive audit.
She and Marjory LeBreton could not abide the fact that I was outspoken in caucus, or critical of their leadership – or that my level of activity brought me into the public eye and once garnered the praise of the prime minister. They resented that – they resented me being an activist senator.
In this chamber, Senator Marjory LeBreton derided me, accusing me of having an inflated view of my role.
“This narcissism” … she said … “is the crux of the situation before us.”
In fact, the crux of the situation is not about narcissism – not hers or mine or anyone else’s – the crux of this matter is the lack of due process and a flawed system that allows personal vendettas to be indulged.
In my case, there was a secret investigation of my activities and expenses that went on for months – I only learned about that much later. I was not even told last November when Senator LeBreton made her allegations and refused to cite her basis for alleging I had misspent Senate funds.
Still my office immediately began our own detailed examination.
We scoured the books and when we found mistakes, we acknowledged them and I repaid the amounts immediately.
That was before Deloitte was engaged to conduct a so-called independent audit.
When in the New Year that outside audit began, I cooperated fully.
My assistant and I worked night and day verifying timelines, searching out supporting documentation for each and every event – and there were many.
Being an activist senator meant saying ‘yes’ to as many of the invitations I received as possible.
I never went anywhere that I was not invited – and my claims were never disputed at the time.
Still, despite the cooperation by me and my office, the Deloitte audit was extended again and again, finally to cover my entire tenure as a senator.
I was cautioned by the then-chair of the committee, Senator Tkachuk, to limit the amount of information I was providing – but the real problem was that Deloitte had been given marching orders by Internal Economy.
The committee was angry that Deloitte had actually said that Senators Duffy and Brazeau had not violated any Senate rules, and that the rules were contradictory and confusing.
The committee wanted a different story from Deloitte in my case, so they were told to apply the new travel policy that had come into force in June, 2012, retroactively to each and every one of my claims back to the beginning of my time here in 2009 – retroactivity is ugly and it is unconscionable.
It was designed to inflate the numbers and to inflame public opinion.
In other words, they had to exaggerate the total amount of my alleged misspending so that the public outcry would justify the radical response we see in the motion they now propose.
Just to be clear, when asked, Deloitte said there was no evidence of deliberate misrepresentation or fraud or fiddling with the books, as the media reported.
They spoke with former staff members who agreed.
And by their own admission, Deloitte conceded they had no standard by which to judge my activities.
They interviewed no senators about what constituted Senate business, nor reviewed anyone else’s expenses for comparison.
Interestingly, I’ve had several independent auditors tell me they were shocked that Deloitte would agree to audit my expenses under rules that were not in place when those expenses were incurred.
Today’s rules, Deloitte said, were applied to yesterday because, they were told they were the same as the old rules.
A Record of Decision by the Committee on Internal Economy says in several places that the Travel Policy is new – including Appendix A, which lists travel that is acceptable or not.
There were no such examples provided in previous documents.
Prior to the new rules coming into force, I’ve been unable to find any rule of this place that forbade speaking at a fundraising or a partisan event so long as there wasn’t an election campaign in progress.
So, honorable senators, the travel rules were considerably different before June 2012, and yet those June 2012 rules were applied retroactively to me.
When I was appointed to the Senate, I knew it could be a platform for the causes in which I deeply believe, just as Senator Dallaire works to stop the exploitation of child soldiers, and Senator Munson works actively to support families with autistic children.
And so I used that platform – I traveled the country talking about Afghanistan and the decisions facing Canada about our role in the world.
I did so as a senator. I was asked to speak because I was a member of this chamber.
But more than that, I knew that the Conservative leadership expected me to work hard outside this chamber too, not only for the good of Canadians but for the Conservative Party of Canada – because I had a track record as a communicator and a reputation as a fair and honest person.
Prime Minister Chretien asked me to serve as consul general in New York after the 9-11 attacks.
Much was at stake for our country – I was an activist diplomat.
That is part of the reason Prime Minister Harper appointed me to the Afghan Panel and then to the Senate.
I work hard and I may be guilty of being unable to say no when asked, as a senator, to come and speak.
But I did so willingly, gladly – recognizing the responsibility bestowed upon me to reach out to all Canadians.
I always spoke about issues of public interest and public policy, which, by the way, is permitted by the current travel policy and was not forbidden by past rules.
It was my job to raise the profile of this chamber and to make the case for Senate reform – I agreed to term limits.
I am privileged to have this great honour of being a senator from Saskatchewan – it is my home and it is the place that taught me the value of hard work.
My life is my vocation and my avocation. My function is my duty. It’s no 9 to 5 job.
You all now know I was subjected to a secret investigation, an extended audit process in which details of my life and activities were leaked to the media, my reputation was attacked and I was summarily thrown out of the Conservative Party.
On Friday, May 17, of the May long weekend, I received a panicked phone call ordering me to resign immediately from the Conservative caucus.
It was after 5 eastern time and Senator LeBreton and the prime minister’s principal secretary Ray Novak said they were speaking on behalf of the prime minister and that my being a part of the Conservative caucus was now an embarrassment to the prime minister.
When I attempted to argue that absolutely nothing had changed in my case and to question them about why they were demanding my immediate resignation, I was told again they were speaking for the prime minister, he wanted me gone.
Because the audit was not even finished, we negotiated with the two a statement that said I would recuse myself from caucus, not resign. I had not done anything wrong.
Less than 10 minutes later, Senator LeBreton broke the deal and publicly declared that I had resigned.
My lawyers immediately sent an email to Senator LeBreton and Ray Novak, demanding an explanation.
There was no reply. To this day there has been no reply.
We followed up with another request and to date no reply to that letter either.
Now, having been thrown out of the caucus, the show trial continued. In mid-August I was told I could show up at a closed door Internal Economy meeting where I could make no opening statement and where I was denied legal representation. Once again I was denied due process.
In the end I was ordered by the Committee to pay back the money spent doing the job I was asked to do – objectives promoted by the Senate itself in its own annual report – and I quote:
Modern telecommunications and air travel make it possible for parliamentarians to do much more, much more quickly than was possible in the early days of Parliament …
They organize or speak at events, attend and present to conferences, publish research, raise matters with Cabinet ministers and provide credibility and support to the causes they believe in.
All of you sitting in this chamber have to think about what you have done and where you have been in the past two years, or perhaps your entire tenure – doing your job as a senator.
If todays’ travel and other rules are applied to you retroactively, many of you too may be asked to pay back.
I’m not just speaking theoretically – many of you have privately told me you are concerned.
Shouldn’t the same standard apply to all of us?
Read this motion very carefully – today my name is there.
Tomorrow, next month or next year it could just as easily be yours.
My understanding is that the Auditor General’s audit on all of you will be restricted to a start time of fiscal 2011-2012. But what if the Auditor General demands a broader mandate or makes the rules retroactive?
If this keeps up, if this place continues to function without even a nod to due process, or to the rule of law – then, to paraphrase Senator Segal, eventually you could run out of buses … and the people to throw under them.
If the Senate proceeds with this motion, I believe it is the beginning of the end of this chamber.
It will have denied due process. Surely I am entitled to expect this to be a place where the rule of law is respected – after all, you are all lawmakers.
For the better part of a year the Government has sought to embarrass me and undermine me in the public eye.
It has said things about me which are not true.
This has left my reputation – hard earned over 40 years – in tatters.
Now the Government wants to deprive me of my income or my ability to earn one in the future – so that I cannot afford to mount a proper legal defence.
They hoped all this would force me to resign.
But despite the clear, vindictive intent of this motion, you will never break my spirit.