Senate scandal

Where the magic happens /Getty Images

Where the magic happens /Getty Images

Time may be up for certain senators

Article: Tatenda Chikukwa – Contributor

It could be the end of the line for Senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Saskatchewan’s very own representative, Pamela Wallin. It is predicted that the Senate will make its final decision to suspend the Senators’ without pay before they head to the Conservative national policy convention in Calgary. If the motion is passed, the Senators will lose their seats and any hope of being reinstated after the 2015 election.

Allegations of expense abuse began last November when the Senate’s internal economy requested an audit of Sen. Brazeau’s housing allowance, which then led to an inquiry of Sen. Mac Harb’s and Sen. Mike Duffy’s housing expenses.  Sen. Brazeau, who is already under investigation for domestic assault and sexual assault, was found to have inappropriately used his housing allowance on a secondary housing property and was asked to repay $49,000. Brazeau refused to pay on the grounds that it would be an admission to guilt, leaving the Senate no option but to withhold 20 per cent of his annual salary of $135,200 over a 21-month period.

Former P.E. I. Senate representative, Mike Duffy’s, fall from grace began when an investigation was launched into the status of his primary residence. Duffy has a home in both P.E.I. and Ottawa. The Senate sub-committee had cause to believe Duffy’s main residence to be in Ottawa and not P.E.I.  Duffy also faces problems regarding the $65,000 he paid his friend, Gerald Donohue, ‘for little or no work’, according to court documents filed by the RCMP and then there’s that dreaded personal cheque from the Prime Minister’s former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright.

Duffy shocked everyone at Tuesday’s Senate hearing when he admitted that the Prime Minister personally told him to repay the expenses he owed, thus implicating Steven Harper in the Senate scandal. Harper’s former Chief of Staff was fired for allegedly making the decision to give Sen. Duffy a personal cheque of $90,000 to repay his travel expenses. Harper remains adamant that he knew nothing of the cheque, but Duffy has other views, “Pay the money back. End of discussion. Nigel Wright was present throughout. Just the three of us,” said Duffy on Harper’s involvement in the cover up.

Now, lest we forget the third party of this motion, Pamela Wallin, whose troubles with the Senate began when auditing firm, Delloite, was hired to review her travel expenses. The firm found only 11 of the 94 flights Wallin took from Ottawa to Saskatchewan were direct flights; therefore the $138, 970 in travel expenses billed to the Senate were improper. Wallin was scrutinized for numerous layovers to her Toronto residence because the Senate only pays for direct flights from Ottawa to a Senator’s home province. Wallin was found to have abused this privilege and told to repay the Senate or be removed from it.

[pullquote]“It seems to me that Canadians are getting sick of this.”[/pullquote]

The three senators remain resolute that the accusation of “gross negligence” by Senate leader Claude Carignan is highly inflammatory and that they are being singled out by fellow senators. Duffy has since resigned, Wallin has recused herself, and Brazeau has been barred from the Senate even though the RCMP hasn’t formally charged them with any crime.

CBC legislative reporter, Stefani Langenegger, says that there is a serious need for Senate reform.

“It seems to me that Canadians are getting sick of this.”

Canadians are divided on the motion to suspend but they are not divided on the issue of government transparency.

The scandal has re-opened the debate of abolishing the Senate and, according to Wallin, the suspension is a strategy to quell public concern.

“This charade is supposedly about preserving the reputation of this place – but the real intent is to remove a perceived liability – namely me”.

The Senate scandal started off being about misuse of government funding, but now it has grown to become litmus test of conservative cohesion and growing public awareness of government spending.  As the Carillon went to press, the story is still developing.

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