Video: More heated words & more allegations as Pamela Wallin & Patrick Brazeau fight against possible suspension. Mike Le Couteur and Jacques Bourbeau report.
OTTAWA – Conservative leadership in the Senate offered Patrick Brazeau a “backroom deal,” the embattled senator told his colleagues Friday.
“At approximately 10:20 this morning I was outside this chamber in the back and…the leader of the government in the Senate took me aside,” he said, speaking slowly and deliberately as his colleagues contemplate a motion to suspend him from the Senate.
“I’ll be very careful about my words here, but I was essentially offered a backroom deal. And the backroom deal was, if I stood in this chamber, apologized to Canadians and took responsibility for my actions, my punishment would be less severe than the motion.”
Brazeau left the chamber shortly after making the accusation, but wouldn’t offer any further details on the deal.
Back in the chamber, government leader in the Senate Claude Carignan offered a different characterization of the conversation, saying he was merely trying to help his former Conservative colleague.
“I spoke to him out of friendship in saying Senator Brazeau, please suggest something,” he said in French. “Apologize, perhaps a lighter sanction, something that we can come up with to try to find the right balance. I did that in confidence and frankly I did it in an attempt to help him…perhaps I had too strong of an urge to help him.”
Later, Carignan told reporters he’s open to changing the suspension terms for both Brazeau and Wallin, but not Duffy.
But he said Brazeau “misinterpreted the situation” as a back room deal.
He said he told Brazeau he could make propositions in the chamber, and apologize to Canadians.
“I know very well the rules, and Brazeau (doesn’t) have the experience that I have with the rules,” he said.
Outside the Senate, Liberal Senate leader James Cowan said Brazeau’s revelation “came as a surprise to me.”
“I don’t know…exactly what conversation took place. But that’s not an option which Senator Carignan has put on the table,” he said, adding if Carignan proposed something else the Senate would consider it.
“That’s precisely the reason why there should be a sub-committee or a committee of the Senate looking at this whole range of options rather than simply dealing with a single proposition.”
Cowan said the Conservatives can have any conversation they want and he has no comment on it. “I think it’s the wrong way to go about dealing with this very serious issue,” he said.
NDP House leader Nathan Cullen said he’s not sure who to believe in this “entire fiasco.”
“No one is believable, so it’s a question of credibility. Who's lying more than the other guy? Everyone's trying to cover themselves including the prime minister,” he said.
“Who to believe? I mean Canadians throw their hands up and are frustrated and disgusted because we didn’t think the Senate could get worse, and somehow Mr. Harper has made it much much worse.”
The exchange between Brazeau and Carignan came after Senator Pamela Wallin urged her fellow senators not to “rush to judgment” as her former party, the Conservatives, moved to limit debate on the motion to suspend her, Brazeau and Mike Duffy.
She called on the Senate to clarify its rules for residency and travel expenses, and to be “consistent” before sentencing three senators to suspension from the chamber without pay.
Speaking with emotion in her voice, Wallin implored the Senate not to convict her and fellow senators.
“Due process is being denied,” she said. “Please do not rush to judgment.”
Wallin said she was still looking for the chance to make her case.
“We have not had that opportunity,” she said.
As she left, Wallin said her fate was in the Senate’s hands and we’ll see what happens next week.
Carignan agreed Friday to table minutes from the meeting of the internal economy committee, which operates behind closed doors, when they dealt with Wallin’s expenses. He said the documents were being translated and should be ready by Monday.
Wallin waived her right to privacy in the matter.
When the Senate returned Friday after a long night of debate, Conservative Senator Yonah Martin gave notice she would introduce a motion that would shut down debate on the motions early next week.
The motions seek to suspend the senators and strip them of pay and benefits for “gross negligence” in relation to their expenses.
A spokesman for Carignan’s office accused the Liberals of dragging their feet over the past three days, during which the attention of the upper chamber has been focused on whether the Senate has the power and authority to issue the proposed sanctions.
The motions seek to suspend Senators Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau.
The vote to cut off debate will likely happen Tuesday, with the three senators at the centre of this learning their fates by mid-week.
The debates have revealed some divisions in the Tory caucus, with at least one MP and two senators speaking out against them.
Conservative Senator Don Plett, a former president of the Conservative Party of Canada, told reporters Friday he is against the move to limit debate on the motions.
The Senate is dealing with nothing less than the lives and livelihoods of three individuals, he said, arguing that taking time and slowing down the process could prove beneficial.
Plett yesterday described to his colleagues in the Senate how difficult this week has been for him, as it marked the first time he has ever considered voting against his government.
He said Friday he intends to introduce an amendment to Carignan’s motion next week, though he wouldn’t divulge any details. Speaking to his colleagues Thursday, however, he suggested the Senate consider suspending Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau with pay.
“I am most certainly about protecting the institution,” Plett told reporters Friday. “The fact these people may or may not be my friends is entirely irrelevant.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Sen. leader James Cowan, who wants the motions studied at a special committee, also proposed sending Wallin’s case to the Senate rules and procedure committee and invite her to appear as a witness.
“We would be able to say to Canadians that due process was followed,” he said.
Both Brazeau and Wallin were present in the chamber again Friday, as they have been throughout the week.
Duffy, who said he is suffering from a heart condition and is under doctor’s orders to stay away from work, only showed up on Tuesday when he dropped a series of bombshells in a speech.
Marjory LeBreton, newly installed on the internal economy committee, launched a counter-attack against her former Conservative colleague Thursday. She told her colleagues that Duffy spun a sensational tale not based on facts, and missed his opportunity to defend his spending.
While Brazeau was present for most of Thursday, only Wallin stayed until the Senate adjourned at midnight.
On her way out, she told reporters she still felt, despite the log debates, that she was not being afforded due process. She said she intended to take the opportunity to speak more Friday.
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