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Gerald Comeau in line to replace Tkachuk on Senate committee

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, right, and Senator Gerald Comeau inspect new footwear for members of the Canadian navy at CFB Halifax in Halifax on Friday, Sept. 10,  2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay, right, and Senator Gerald Comeau inspect new footwear for members of the Canadian navy at CFB Halifax in Halifax on Friday, Sept. 10, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan.

Conservative Sen. Gerald Comeau is in line to replace colleague David Tkachuk as chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee when Tkachuk steps down next week for health reasons, according to government leader in the Senate Marjory LeBreton.

First Comeau must be nominated, but it could happen as early as Tuesday evening.

“It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. I’m prepared to serve. I’ve always wanted to serve in whatever capacity I could,” said Comeau, a former Progressive Conservative MP who currently sits on the committee.

When asked how he feels the committee has handled itself over the past few months, Comeau said members have “tried to do the best they could given the circumstances.”

He said members don’t do audits themselves, but put in controls to make sure administration can do its job.

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“If we see that we can do more, we’ll do more,” he said. “I know members from both sides they certainly want to see the Senate do right, and the committee do right.”

Tkachuk, who recently underwent surgery, told the Senate Tuesday he is about to start treatment next week for bladder cancer and it will take him through the summer with “no guarantee of success.”

“It makes it impossible for me to fulfill my duties as chair in these very demanding times,” Tkachuk told the chamber. He said he will remain as a member of the committee.

“This is not a decision I came to easily. I don’t like to leave jobs unfinished but at the same time I don’t want to add to the committee’s problems.”

There was a standing ovation when Tkachuk announced his resignation, with many in the upper chamber shaking his hand.

The Saskatchewan senator chaired the committee that ordered external audits of housing and living allowance claims by three senators —Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb — and the travel expenses of Pamela Wallin.

The committee was under fire recently, accused of whitewashing a report into Duffy’s expenses after he paid back $90,000 in ineligible expenses, with a personal cheque from former chief of staff Nigel Wright.

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Tkachuk told Global News he had discussions with the prime minister’s office during the investigation into Duffy’s expenses but denied the report was whitewashed and said changes were made to Duffy’s report because he’d paid back his expenses.

The committee subsequently asked the RCMP to investigate after it was revealed Wright gave Duffy the cheque.

Tkachuk will remain as chair until the end of the week, after both Auditor General Michael Ferguson and Deloitte auditors are set to appear before the committee.

Ferguson was called in after the Senate voted for an investigation into all the upper chamber’s expenses. He is to appear Tuesday night and is currently planning on the extent and scope of the audit.

Deloitte auditors are expected Thursday to explain the timeline of Wallin’s audit. It is not expected until after the summer.

– with files from the Canadian Press