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Politics Suspension motions against senators could be amended, Conservative Senate leader says

Government leader in the Senate Claude Carignan speaks to the media in the Senate foyer on Parliament Hill October 25, 2013 in Ottawa.

Dave Chan/The Globe and Mail

The Conservative leader in the Senate says the motions he introduced to suspend three senators without pay could be changed after arguments those senators made in the Red Chamber last week.

Claude Carignan told Radio-Canada that he would consult with the Conservative caucus in a closed-door meeting Monday morning to determine if the proposed suspensions should be amended. At least two Conservative senators and one Conservative MP spoke out against about the suspensions last week, saying the process does not give the three senators an adequate opportunity to defend themselves.

Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, all Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointees, face possible suspension without pay or benefits over what Mr. Carignan has characterized as "gross negligence" of parliamentary resources. The allegations relate to tens of thousands of dollars in disputed expense claims.

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During the past week, Ms. Wallin and Mr. Duffy both accused senior Senate officials of conspiring against them while their claims were under examination.

In an interview that aired Sunday morning, Mr. Carignan suggested to Radio-Canada that he would consider lighter sanctions for Ms. Wallin and Mr. Brazeau because they responded to some of the allegations against them during their speeches in the Senate. However, the Senate leader appeared to take a more hardline stance with Mr. Duffy, indicating that the PEI Senator chose to "settle political scores" rather than deal with the expense claim allegations, according to the interview with Radio-Canada.

Mr. Carignan also suggested that Mr. Brazeau may not have been fully aware of the Senate rules when he was claiming living expenses for a residence in the National Capital Region.

Senators whose primary residences are located more than 100 kilometres away from Ottawa are allowed to claim expenses to help with the cost of staying in the Ottawa area for work. However, auditors confirmed that Mr. Brazeau and Mr. Duffy both spent more time in their Ottawa-area homes than in their declared primary residences.

The auditors found that the Senate's residency rules were unclear but the Senate committee in charge of the audit disagreed and ordered the senators to repay the money that was called into question.

All three senators facing the suspension motions are under investigation by the RCMP in connection with their expense claims. A fourth, former Liberal Senator Mac Harb, quit the Senate in August and is also under investigation. None have been charged.

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