Video: Political drama played out in the Senate chamber once again, with Pamela Wallin saying what has happened to her is an abuse of power. Global National’s Mike Le Couteur reports.
OTTAWA — Senator Pamela Wallin attacked the Conservative government and her colleagues in the Senate on Wednesday while defending herself against the threat of suspension, one day after Senator Mike Duffy dropped a series of bombshells in the upper chamber.
Wallin and Duffy, along with Senator Patrick Brazeau, are at the heart of the spending scandal in the upper chamber.
When she got the floor and the ears of the senators, Wallin let loose a series of allegations against some of her former Conservative colleagues. The former broadcaster spun a tale of those senators attacks being driven by a personal vendetta.
“(Carolyn Stewart Olsen) and Marjory LeBreton could not abide the fact that I was outspoken in caucus, or critical of their leadership – or that my level of activity brought me into the public eye and once garnered the praise of the prime minister,” Wallin read from her prepared statement. “They resented that – they resented me being an activist senator.”
Wallin then described a “panicked phone call” she received on the Friday of the May long weekend, ordering her to immediately resign form caucus.
“Senator LeBreton and the prime minister’s principal secretary, Ray Novak, said they were speaking on behalf of the prime minister and that my being a part of the Conservative caucus was now an embarrassment to the prime minister.”
Audio: Marjory LeBreton responds to Wallin’s accusations
Novak took over as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s chief of staff after Nigel Wright resigned amid controversy for cutting a $90,000 cheque to Duffy during the Senate expense scandal.
“But despite the clear, vindictive intent of this motion, you will never break my spirit.”
Wallin didn’t have the opportunity to address the Senate on Tuesday, when the Senate launched into a debate on the potential suspensions of the three senators in question. Still, she showed signs of displeasure at times, shaking her head, pursing her lips or laying her head on her hands when the government mentioned her questionable travel expenses.
The motions to suspend the three senators without pay, benefits or Senate resources were put forward by Conservative Senator Claude Carignan, the government leader in the Senate.
According to the motions, Carignan is accusing all three senators of “gross negligence.”
Wallin’s lawyer, Terrence O’Sullivan, said he is seeking a public hearing for his client in which the Senate would present evidence and witnesses supporting their allegation of gross negligence. Without that, he said he may seek legal action.
Wallin, who left the Conservative caucus in May, has long described the audit of her expenses as flawed and unfair – though she complied when the Senate demanded she repay almost $150,000, including interest, in claims.
Conservative Sen. Hugh Segal has been among Wallin’s most vocal defenders, claiming the Senate’s treatment has been unfair.
Following her appeal to the Senate Wednesday afternoon, Segal rose, asking the Speaker of the Senate to rule the motion against her out of order. Moving to suspend her without pay, he said, violates her civil rights and the right every Canadian has to due process.
The motion, and the sentence it imposes, is largely without precedent in the Senate, he argued.
Passing this motion against Wallin, he said, would set a precedent that a majority in the Senate could suspend any member they don’t like or find politically inconvenient.
Voting in favour of the motion would also set the upper chamber on a slippery slope toward becoming an institution that ignores rules and laws, Segal said.
The speaker did not issue a ruling Wednesday.
Duffy and Brazeau, meanwhile, had their chance to defend themselves Tuesday. Both painted their positions as scapegoats in a plan — or a conspiracy, as Duffy put it — the Prime Minister’s Office hatched.
Reading with fervour from a prepared statement Tuesday, Duffy claimed Harper personally ordered him to repay the tens of thousands of dollars in inappropriately claims housing allowances.
The senator recounted a meeting in February with Harper and his then-chief of staff, Wright. It was just one part of the tale of “monstrous conspiracy” orchestrated by the Prime Minister’s Office he said occurred.
FULL AUDIO: Mike Duffy blasts PMO in Senate
The order of payment came, the senator said, not because of a concern for the truth, but because the prime minister was concerned with how the Conservative base was responding to the Senate spending scandal.
Duffy didn’t make it clear whether Harper was present when he said Wright offered to cover the cost.
The senator did, however, say that Novak, who took over as chief of staff to Harper after Wright resigned amid scandal, had a hand in the “conspiracy” that saw Duffy repay his housing allowances with Wright’s $90,000 cheque and later resign from the Conservative caucus.
Brazeau stood to address his colleagues in the chamber after Duffy, calling for the Senate internal economy committee to hold and an open and public hearing into his spending audits, which would allow him to speak freely and have legal counsel.
When he made a similar move Tuesday afternoon, prior to today’s debate, two senators applauded Brazeau’s notice of motion: Wallin and Duffy.
During his impassioned presentation to the Senate, the embattled senator assured his colleagues he met all four residency requirements, insisting the Prime Minister’s Office is merely using him as a scapegoat.
Liberal leader in the Senate James Cowan proposed sending all three motions to a Senate committee in order to hear expert opinion on whether the proposed sanctions fall within the rights of the chamber.
Debate on that amendment is expected to continue Thursday.