OTTAWA – Federal Liberals are trying to drag Justice Minister Peter MacKay into the Senate expenses scandal.
Liberal justice critic Sean Casey has written MacKay, arguing that he has a legal duty to ensure that public affairs are conducted lawfully.
In particular, Casey says MacKay has a statutory obligation to ensure that Sec. 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act is enforced.
The section says it’s an indictable offence for anyone to offer compensation to a senator for services rendered in relation to any claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, has admitted giving $90,000 to Mike Duffy so the senator could reimburse the Senate for disputed living expense claims.
The RCMP is alleging that Wright and Duffy engaged in bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as defined in the Criminal Code. Neither Wright nor Duffy has been charged with any offence.
RCMP documents filed in court have shown that more than a dozen others, including senior PMO staffers, senators and Conservative party officials, were involved in hammering out a deal with Duffy, whereby he publicly announced he’d repaid the Senate in return for a watered-down audit and Senate report on his conduct.
So far, the Mounties have not cited the Parliament of Canada Act, an omission that has struck some parliamentary law experts as curious. Nor has there been any indication that their investigation has been expanded to include any of the other individuals who were involved in the scheme.
In his letter Friday, Casey reminds MacKay that the Department of Justice Act “places an explicit duty on you, as minister of justice and attorney general, to ‘see that the administration of public affairs is in accordance with the law.’”
He asks MacKay to provide a detailed list of the actions he’s taken to fulfill his statutory obligation to ensure Sec. 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act is enforced.
“I note that while the RCMP continues Criminal Code investigations into the actions of Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy, there seems to be silence about the actions of these other individuals and whether they might be prosecuted under the Parliament of Canada Act,” Casey writes.
“It is critical that the public affairs of Canada be conducted in full compliance of the law.”