WATCH: Global News has learned a number of Conservative senators are planning to break party ranks as they debate whether to suspend three scandal-plagued colleagues. Mike Le Couteur report and Tom Clark report.
OTTAWA —A staunch Conservative said he cannot support his government’s move to suspend three senators without pay, as it could set a dangerous precedent and deny the senators’ fundamental rights to due process.
Debate about the futures of Senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau continued late into the night Thursday, after each had had the opportunity throughout the week to defend themselves from the threat of losing all but their senator titles.
Conservative Senator Don Plett, a former president of the Conservative Party of Canada, passionately voiced his concerns Thursday of the precedent the upper chamber could set if it passes these motions. For that, he said, he could not support his government’s motion without any amendments.
This week was personally very difficult, he said, as it marked the first time he had ever considered voting against his government. The Senate could consider other options, Plett said, such as suspension with pay.
“Honourable senators, please do the right thing,” he said as he wrapped up his statement, a lengthy and resounding applause erupting from both sides of the chamber.
Government leader in the Senate Claude Carignan on Tuesday introduced one motion against each of the three senators at the heart of the Senate spending scandal.
If the motions against Wallin, Brazeau and Duffy succeed, each will lose their salary, benefits and Senate resources at least until the end of the current parliamentary session, scheduled to end in 2015.
While some expected a vote Thursday, Carignan confirmed the upper chamber will take the unusual step of sitting on a Friday to continue debate on the motions.
He couldn’t say for certain when the votes would occur.
Brazeau arrived in the Senate Thursday afternoon, and tabled a document from March 2011 he said confirmed Senate administration approved the expenses he was ordered to pay back.
“I’ve done nothing wrong and I maintain that,” Brazeau said. “I think the real question that should be asked is why some of the key players that have been named – in particular, Senators LeBreton, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Tkachuk and Nigel Wright – how come they’re no longer in their positions?”
The three embattled senators are not without their supporters.
Conservative Senator Hugh Segal came to Wallin’s defence Wednesday, asking the speaker of the Senate to rule the motion against her out of order. The independent audit into her travel expenses was neither presented to the upper chamber nor debated, he said, arguing that a vote on this motion would be the equivalent of deciding a sentence before holding a trial.
Delivering a case Plett later echoed, passing the motion against Wallin would set a dangerous precedent whereby a majority of senators would have the power to suspend any of their colleagues they simply disliked or deemed a political liability, Segal argued.
The speaker ruled Thursday afternoon against Segal, meaning the motion to turf Wallin would go ahead for debate.
Senator Marjory LeBreton, a key player in the versions of events both Wallin and Duffy presented this week, took the floor Thursday in an attempt to negate the explosive version of events Duffy shared.
She started her counterargument describing the former broadcaster’s style of political journalism, saying he knows how to put on a sensational show.
Duffy had said the prime minister, during a private meeting with his chief of staff and the senator, ordered Duffy repay the housing allowances the Senate ruled he’d collected inappropriately.
Duffy said he did not want to pay the $90,000 because doing so could be interpreted as an admission of guilt – a verdict he steadfastly denies.
LeBreton tried to poke holes in the tale he had labeled a conspiracy, saying the meeting he described was merely a casual conversation the three men had after one of the party’s weekly caucus meetings.
“The story Sen. Duffy spun in this place was not based on fact,” she said.
The Liberals, meanwhile, have proposed an amendment to send the motions to a Senate committee where experts could be brought in to offer testimony on the powers and rights of the upper chamber to impose the suggested sanctions.
The Senate will have to vote on that amendment before voting on whether to suspend Wallin, Brazeau and Duffy.
With the federal auditor general looking into the expenses of every senator, it could place a chill on enough senators to see the motions defeated.
Until then, the members will rely on debate and the arguments each of the three senators put forward this week.
Wallin read from a statement Wednesday, claiming her reputation, decades in the making, is in tatters all because of personal and political vendettas involving confidantes of the prime minister.
Wallin, who left the Conservative caucus in May, accused former colleagues Senators Carolyn Stewart Olsen and LeBreton of leaking information about her to the media.
Video: Marjory LeBreton says she was “flabbergasted” by Wallin’s accusations
The senator 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.”
Novak took over as the prime minister’s chief of staff after Wright resigned amid scandal when it was revealed he had cut Duffy a $90,000 cheque so the senator could repay his expenses.
Wallin said those senior Tories were hoping she would resign from the Senate. But her spirit was too strong, she said.
Wallin was the final of the three to get the floor and take the opportunity to defend her job and reputation. Duffy and Brazeau spoke Tuesday, when the Senate launched its debate on the potential suspensions of the three senators in question.