Senate can’t take away Wallin’s pension, lawyer says
Video: Three senators were suspended without pay, but are they completely off the public payroll? Mike Le Couteur reports.
OTTAWA – The Senate has no apparent authority to take away Pamela Wallin’s pension and she will consider legal action if it does, her lawyer said Wednesday.
“We can find no legislation or regulation that allows them to do anything with her pension. And so if they do something, I’ll be the first to ask, what’s your authority for doing this?” lawyer Terrence O’Sullivan said in an interview.
“We have made those inquiries, nobody has an answer. They have been unable to tell us,” he said.
“This is all being made up as it goes along.”
Wallin, along with Senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, was suspended without pay for at least two years from the upper chamber on Tuesday night.
All were appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2009 and it is unclear whether their suspensions will count towards the six years of service they need to be eligible for a generous parliamentary pension that would kick in in 2015.
A spokesman for Claude Carignan, the government leader in the Senate, said Senate administration is “currently studying the technicalities” of the suspensions.
“The Senate has clearly expressed its intention yesterday during the vote: no pay or benefits except insurance during the suspension, ” spokesman Sébastien Gariépy wrote in an email.
“We asked the Senate’s administration to ensure that the will of the Senate is respected. The administration is currently studying the technicalities.”
A Senate spokeswoman said information about the pensions was not available at this time.
O’Sullivan said he and his client are still considering legal action.
“We’re in uncharted waters here,” he said.
“So who the defendants would be, what the case would look like, if we decided to launch it – which, we haven’t made that decision yet – remains to be seen.”
He would not comment on whether he has been in touch with lawyers for Duffy or Brazeau.
On Wednesday, NDP leader Tom Mulcair told reporters: “Do you honestly think I care about a detail as to whether or not this one gets their medical benefit here or their pension there. Why stop at three? Let’s get rid of all of them.”
O’Sullivan also accused Harper of whipping the vote on last night’s historic suspension motions, despite the fact that the government contended that senators could vote their conscience.
“What a load of garbage,” said O’Sullivan. “It was changed into a government vote, they whipped the vote, (Harper) spoke to the caucus, and he clearly drove the agenda.”
A spokesman for the prime minister said Conservative senators were free to vote as they saw fit.
For a time, Wallin hoped voices of moderation would prevail, O’Sullivan said.
“There were obviously attempts by honourable and well-intentioned people to arrive at a different result. (Conservative Senator Don) Plett, among others, sought to be the voice of moderation, and we did think for a while that those voices would prevail but the prime minister put his foot down on it,” he said.
Only one Conservative Senator, Hugh Segal, voted against the government motions. Another six abstained from the vote on Brazeau, and four abstained on Wallin and Duffy.
Conservative Senators Plett, Don Meredith, Nancy Ruth and John Wallace abstained on all of them.
O’Sullivan said he doesn’t believe Wallin has another job lined up, and he would not say where the Saskatchewan senator was on Wednesday.
“She has two aged and ill parents, and I’m sure she’ll spend as much time with them as she can,” he said.
He said he spoke to his client after the vote Tuesday.
“She had admiration for those people who tried to do what they thought was the right thing, and she was upset and angry at being made the victim of political expediency by a party that had asked her to do so much and for whom she had done so much,” he said.
O’Sullivan said the process to suspend his client was not fair or impartial.
“It was a sentencing before trial…in the face of an ongoing investigation, and all in the case of political expediency,” he said.
“We will catch our breath and consider our options and let the world know when we’ve made a decision.”
– with a file from The Canadian Press
© 2013 Shaw Media