‘I would have gone for expulsion’ frustrated Tory senator says
Watch above: It looks like Senate will vote tomorrow on whether to suspend Brazeau, Wallin & Duffy. Mike Le Couteur reports.
OTTAWA —The proposed sanctions against three senators at the heart of the Senate spending scandal are too lenient and too late, says one of their colleagues.
“If I were the police chief and these were my employees, I would have gone for expulsion. They would never be back,” said Vern White, a Conservative senator who was Ottawa’s chief of police until last year.
Senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, each accused of collecting inappropriate expenses, stand to lose their salaries and access to Senate resources for at least two years if a Tory motion’s successful Tuesday.
But if suspended, the trio of senators would still have access to some medical benefits and life insurance.
A frustrated White spoke exclusively with Global News Monday, saying the punishments are not harsh enough and that the entire process has dragged on too long— debate on the suspension motion is now into its ninth day, but the allegations of improper expense claims stretch back almost a year.
“Some [of the senators] should have been gone earlier,” White said. “I think it would have sent the right message that the people were looking for – that we’re holding people to account as soon as we can.”
White wouldn’t say which senators he thought should have been kicked out earlier.
Conservative leadership in the Senate successfully limited debate on the suspension motion to another six hours,setting the stage for a final vote Tuesday.
Cowan: Conservatives in Senate “making up the rules as they go along”
White voted in favour of limiting debate, but not all Tory senators toed the party line: Hugh Segal, Nancy Ruth and John Wallace voted against their leadership’s motion; Don Plett and Don Meredith abstained.
Wallin, who left the Conservative caucus in May, also abstained from the vote.
Prior to Monday night’s vote, Wallace argued that cutting off debate would not afford the three senators in the middle of the spending scandal the opportunity to adequately defend themselves.
Limiting debate “would be a serious and significant shortcoming of natural justice,” Wallace told his colleagues.
Liberal leader in the Senate James Cowan, meanwhile, characterized the move to shut down debate as a “rush to judgement.”
He stressed that he does not support the actions of the three senators in question and that all should face sanctions.
“But all Canadians are entitled to due process,” he said. “If we allow our judgment, our commitment to fundamental Canadian principles of due process and the rule of law, to be overwhelmed by politics, then we will have damaged the dignity and reputation of the Senate … arguably no less than ‑- and perhaps even more than -‑ the three senators at issue here.”
During the year it has taken the Senate to police itself, Duffy has dropped a series of political bombshells, dragging the Prime Minister’s Office and the Conservative party into the Senate spending scandal.
So even if the Conservative majority in the upper chamber passes the suspension motion this week, the party and the prime minister likely won’t be able to close the file on the Senate scandal; questions continue to swirl around funds the Prime Minister’s Office and Conservative party gave Duffy – $90,000 from the prime minister’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, and $13,560 from Conservative party lawyer Arthur Hamilton.
There’s little doubt in White’s mind the contentious $90,000 payment from Wright to Duffy crossed the line.
“Who [Wright] pulled in and didn’t pull in, I think is a concern as well,” the former top cop said. “We need to ensure there is a separation, but also that there is not influence.”
The Conservative senator in charge of the party’s fundraising, Irving Gerstein, is allegedly one of the people Wright “pulled in.”
According to Duffy’s version of events he recently shared with the Senate, the Conservative party covered $13,560 in legal fees after Wright made the request. Gerstein, too, has blamed Wright for requesting the party pay Duffy’s legal fees.
The Prime Minister’s Office has said the Conservative party covered the legal fees on the assurance they were related to the audit of his questionable expenses.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said there is nothing nefarious about a political party covering the legal fees of one of its caucus members.
The RCMP has alleged in court documents that the Conservative party was initially willing to pay for $32,000 in Duffy’s expenses from the Conservative fund Gerstein controls, but backed off when the tab ballooned to $90,000.
Harper has vehemently denied any knowledge of the deal between Wright and Duffy, saying he believed the beleaguered senator repaid his questionable housing allowances using his own money.
Read: Patrick Brazeau’s Nov. 4 letter to MPs and Senators