Booting outcast senators from pension plan invalidates suspension vote: lawyer


OTTAWA – The suspensions of three senators will be invalidated if the government retroactively changes the law to preclude them from the parliamentary pension plan, Pamela Wallin’s lawyer said Friday.

The law is crystal clear, Terrence O’Sullivan said: the time Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau will spend under suspension must count toward the six years of service they need to qualify for a generous pension.

That was the law when senators voted Tuesday to suspend the trio without pay for up to two years. Changing it after the fact would mean senators did not make an informed decision about the fate of their outcast colleagues, O’Sullivan said.

“It’s not a little technicality,” he told The Canadian Press, referring to government Senate leader Claude Carignan’s characterization of the pension issue.

“In fact, the law was there for anyone to read, as we did, before the vote (to suspend the trio) was held.

“So, if they choose not to read the law, that’s not my client’s problem. And if they move to change the law retroactively, then that makes, in my view, the vote invalid because it took place under a legal regime that’s no longer in place.”

Carignan has said the spirit and intent of the motion to suspend the trio was to strip them of their pay and all benefits — including pensions — except for health, dental and life insurance.

However, the motion did not mention pensions and the issue did not come up during the two weeks of debate on the proposed suspensions.

It was two days after the vote that the Senate administration announced it is required by law to count the time the trio spend in purgatory as pensionable service.

That prompted Treasury Board President Tony Clement, who is responsible for legislation governing parliamentary pensions, to declare that he’ll change the law if necessary to ensure the outcasts do not accumulate pensionable service while they’re under suspension.

O’Sullivan said Clement’s declaration means “every senator who voted for (suspension) was not informed of this position and didn’t have the ability to analyse whether or not they wished to support the motion if the legislation was going to be changed.”

Apart from the legality of such a move, O’Sullivan said, changing the law retroactively to deprive the trio of pensionable service is “vindictive, vicious and without precedent.”

Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau have been suspended for the duration of the parliamentary session, which could continue until 2015 — the same year all three would ordinarily become eligible to collect a parliamentary pension.

The suspension leaves Wallin with “none of the benefits of being a senator but all of the liabilities,” including legal restrictions on employment aimed at preventing conflict of interest, O’Sullivan said.

She is already trying to figure out “how she’s supposed to support herself during the next two years,” he said. To add to that burden by retroactively precluding her from the pension plan “is more mean-spirited than even I could have imagined.”

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Booting outcast senators from pension plan invalidates suspension vote: lawyer

  1. You’d have thought that a party that calls itself the party of law and order would actually know what the law actually says.

    You’d have also thought that they might have learned from the Bev Oda fraud over inserting words into a document after others have signed it.
    Retroactively changing stuff and expecting the decision to remain the same is not only stupid it is contrary to natural justice.
    But what would Gazebo boy know about the law? After all he doesn’t think there needs to be a paper trail for government expenditure.

    • Laws are for suckers, harebell. The CPC lately is like watching an old keystone cops film.


  3. It’a a good thing we have knowledgeable persons in the senate!

    But why can’t they – or couldn’t they have – used their knowledge to help the rest of us?

  4. Get rid of the senate! If we wait for any more proof that it’s not out for our best interests, Canada will go broke in the meantime.

    • I think the more urgent problem is this government.

      • Would that help? Does it really make any difference which party is in power?

        Surely, for certain problems, the public should have input. Is the senate worth keeping, considering what it’s costing?

        • You do realize that it can’t be just abolished. Whatever the options are it’s going to be a long complicated process. If someone’s telling you there’s some simple solution, they’re having you on.

          • Seeing the problems of getting Brazeau, Duffy, and Wallin off the books, one might just get the impression it will be a difficult process just to pay off the current senators, let alone stop any more from being appointed.

            What if we started by going through the books of all the rest, and seeing if they have been negligent in their book-keeping. then, perhaps if there are none left, the senate can be abolished by default.

          • PM’s are obligated to keep it filled. Remember, they’re appointed to represent us. And the AG is about to start auditing all of them.

          • Actually, I wasn’t serious when I gave that response.

            It doesn’t matter how long it takes. As far as I’m concerned the Senate might as well be abolished. Unless people can come up with good reasons – I mean good ones, not just that they are there as a check on the govt we can see how effective that would be – it should go.

            Surely this is what people should be discussing, not how long it would take or simply the fact that you think it would take too long.

  5. And Tony Clement actually has a law degree. Maybe that should be checked into.

  6. I realize this is an important issue, as pensions for the three will be costly. But perhaps, if we can take away their employee health plans they might not live as long – and that would save a bit on the disability to be paid to Duffy – 90% of 90,000 annually? is that right?

    Let them try to survive on OHIP or whatever provincial plan they are able to gain access to.

    • Good heavens: you mean we should try to kill them off to save some money? Isn’t that a tad harsh?

      • It’s not my fault the healthcare system doesn’t work for most people. It wouldn’t be anybody’s fault – just like it’s no fault when bad things happen to poor people using the medical system and it’s just thought of as situation normal. Actually, even using OHIP, they would probably get better care in and in reasonable time than most people.

  7. Everyone assumes that us poor dupes who argued for due process were feeling kind hearted towards the 3 “Ontarian” Senators. It would have been a hell of a lot better to throw them out (not suspend them) with no pension, no benefits, no nothing. It would have taken more time, yes. They would have collected their salaries while it was going on, yes. But at least when it was completed, it would have 1) ensured they had a chance to fairly present their case and assuming (as I do) that that case was weak
    2) it would have provided closure
    but most important
    3) it would have established an important precedent and improved accountability in the Senate.

    As it stands, the clowns have muddled the waters so bad it is going to be very difficult to fix..

    • And meanwhile, you would suggest them carrying on as usual, collecting pay, disability, and healthcare benefits, working and representing our govt’ on official occasions? That would be like keeping Rob Ford on the payroll while due process is carried out.

      It’s surprising that none of these people seem to have any integrity when it comes to their job of serving the people (or however it is described). Number has to be up there somewhere, but how many hundreds of thousands of dollars are they going to fight for, when they have already collected much much more than that?

      You talk about clowns. But isn’t the real issue that this sort of abuse of the system, by the senators, hasn’t been run into before in this manner, or to this extent? Isn’t the problem that there’s nothing in the regulations that says they can be suspended for obviously not being honest in their dealings with their superiors?

      • I think Rob Ford is on the payroll. The problem in Toronto is that the legislation is pretty clear that short of a conviction, Ford can’t be forced out.

        My understanding is that the Senate is self-regulating, so they could suspend the Senators. I believe they could do it without benefits or pension as well. However, they didn’t take the time to do it right, and instead made a quickie compromise to suit Harper’s timeline.

        • We have the same problem here in London, re Mayor Joe Fontana who is currently preparing to go to court on criminal charges.

          It’a amazing that they can do that (that no regulations have been written to deal with such situations) just as it is amazing that these people (including the senators) won’t let go of their position without a fight. When Crown attorney Brian Crockett was up on impaired driving charges, and I think took some program to deal with his problem, he didn’t lose anything from his salary (as noted in the sunshine list for that year).

          Re the senators, they needed, surely, to deal with each situation separately, if they wanted to do the disability bit and pensions, etc. Perhaps immediate action was taken to appease the masses.

          I noticed, in a case from long ago, about sexual harassment, that the immediate reaction of the president of the university was to fire the prof. Indeed, it was this that saved him because it was illegal to do so. Who knows, perhaps the people who did this knew exactly what they were doing.

          • “immediate action” was taken so the pm, who is up to his neck in this scandal, could look tough to his base. You may be part of that base, but I am not. Remember: they all have letters and emails that show they were given permission for their BS expense claims — does not make it right, but it does implicate others, right? This is a mess and taxpayers are going to be on the hook for court costs, and everything else — because the pm went ahead without due process. They don’t even know the law so they rushed to apply a phony one.

          • I don’t know why it was rushed into. But as I said, sometimes harsh actions are really only ‘tough love’ in disguise.

          • Did you type that with a straight face? You believe that harper is showing the senators “tough love?” Come on, Sue. You can do better than that.

          • Well, not tough love in the normal sense of the term.

            But he may have done them a favour, even though it will be painful. If they end up appearing to be victimized through not receiving due process, they may get more out of it in the end.

            As I said in an earlier message, Harper may have have had an ulterior motive by his quick response.

            So instead of all the attention going on the misdeeds of the senators, the focus has changed – to the laws and what Harper did wrong. but whichever way people look at it, he comes off as having tried to do the right thing – suspending the senators for their misdeeds – getting tough.

    • I have given this some thought and I think you may be right. Perhaps Harper even intentionally muddied the waters, knowing that it would serve the senators interests if he did that. It’s hard to believe that Harper would make a mistake like that when he has the advice of the best lawyers around – probably even better than the one the university had when I took it to court in England.

  8. I suppose what the trio did was NOT “vindictive, vicious and without precedent.”?

    • No, not vindictive or vicious (at least if we exclude Brazeau’s non-senatorial problems). Just greedy and self-serving.

  9. I would be happy if Mr. Gazebo changed the law to stop pension accumulation while under suspension. However such a change cannot be made to apply retroactively. Given his supposed credentials, I’d say that he is saying what he is told to say… not what he thinks and knows.

    • Live and learn. So we have to assume this has not happened before. And just because it won’t help in this situation, the law can be changed for next time.

  10. Someone sent me this:

    November 8, 2013

    Re: Senate Reform Reference

    Dear Ministers,

    On November 12, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada will begin its hearings on the Senate Reform Reference. The Reference is the first since the patriation of our Constitution to address how, as between governments, changes to our democratic system of representation may be made. We write today to urge you to advocate for the importance of consulting national women’s organizations in any constitutional amendment and/or Senate reform process. In addition, we write to urge you to ensure that the persistent under-representation of women in our Parliament will finally be ameliorated.

    continued . . . .

  11. The most important thing about all this, to me, is that Harper may have intentionally suspended the senators ‘in haste,’ knowing that it would create havoc among lawyers, the gov’t, and the public, and takes the emphasis off the fundamental problem, that some senators are abusing their privileged position. Sometimes one doesn’t need due process to know that.

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