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Harper goes on radio show to defend campaign to suspend senators

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Oct. 23, 2013 in Ottawa. Harper was a guest on former Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory’s radio show on Toronto station Newstalk 1010 on Oct. 25, 2013, to defend his push to suspend ex-Conservative senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau for without pay “gross negligence” in their use of parliamentary resources.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Stephen Harper is taking to the airwaves to defend his government's campaign to suspend three ex-Conservative senators over their controversial expense claims.

The Conservative Prime Minister is trying to counter critics who say he's punishing Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau before they've been proven guilty. Even senators and MPs in his own party are questioning what the government is doing.

He chose to make his case publicly Friday to a fellow traveller: former Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory, who now hosts a Toronto radio show on Newstalk 1010.

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Mr. Harper said criticism that he's abusing due process is not deterring the push to suspend Mr. Duffy, Ms. Wallin and Mr. Brazeau without pay.

"I think Canadians are actually very clear on this. I know the majority of Canadians senators are. The vast majority of our caucus and Canadians as well."

He said there's sufficient evidence that these three senators – whom he originally appointed – should be suspended without pay.

All three are also under investigation by the RCMP for expense claims. No charges have been laid at this time.

"Everyone knows that the facts have been looked into for over a year by the Senate," Mr. Harper told Newstalk 1010.

"There is absolutely no doubt what these senators did."

Mr. Harper dismissed the notion that no disciplinary action should be taken against the senators unless they have been charged or found guilty of criminal wrongdoing.

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"It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that these senators in some cases have collected literally up to six figures of ineligible expenses – did so willingly over a long period of time."

Using an analogy, the Prime Minister said most Canadian private sector employers wouldn't stand for this.

"What I think most Canadians would say is if you did that in your work, your boss wouldn't wait for you to be convicted of a crime. Your boss would say that and that alone requires there's some action be taken in terms of your job."

Mr. Harper said the senators shouldn't be allowed to keep drawing a salary. "To be sitting on the public payroll and just say you'll repay the money – I think we're way past that in these cases."

"That's what Canadians expect … when people abuse a position of trust at this level and over this time period – and this clearly – that there will be appropriate action taken that frankly removes from them from the public payroll."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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