Senate debate begins on proposed suspension of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau - Macleans.ca
 

Senate debate begins on proposed suspension of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau


 

OTTAWA – The Harper government defended its bid to suspend three senators over their allegedly improper expense claims Tuesday in the face of mounting resistance from some of its own Conservative caucus members.

Sen. Claude Carignan, government leader in the Senate, formally moved that former Conservative colleagues Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau be suspended, without pay, for “gross negligence” in their management of Senate resources.

A number of Conservative and Liberal senators complained that the move amounts to finding the trio, who are under RCMP investigation, guilty before they’ve been charged or convicted of any crime.

Duffy and Wallin have threatened to challenge the move in court and Brazeau is asking for a public hearing into his expenses. All three showed up in the chamber Tuesday, listening from the back row as colleagues debated their fate.

Citing numerous court rulings in the past, Carignan maintained the Senate has the exclusive power to govern its own internal affairs and to impose sanctions on those who break its rules.

The Senate has already concluded that Duffy and Brazeau broke the rules for claiming housing allowances and living expenses and that Wallin broke the rules for claiming travel expenses, he noted. And he said all three have recognized their transgressions by agreeing to reimburse the chamber.

The violations “occurred in such a manner and with such frequency that it constitutes wilful contempt to our institution,” Carignan said, arguing that they “must act with disciplinary action to protect its dignity as well as preserve the public trust in the Senate and Parliament.”

A vote on the suspension motions was not expected before the end of the day Tuesday. Carignan earlier said that Conservative senators would be allowed to vote as they see fit.

The trio of disgraced senators created a stir when each one arrived on Parliament Hill, making their way past a phalanx of cameras and microphones.

“The Senate’s sitting,” Duffy said as he made his way to the chamber. “It’s my job and, despite doctor’s orders, I’m here.”

Last week, on the very day the motions were announced, Duffy said he was taking a medical leave of absence due to a heart condition.

Before Carignan could formally move to suspend the trio, Brazeau informed the chamber he has a motion of his own calling for an open hearing into his expenses. He said the hearing should be conducted by the Senate’s internal economy committee and that he and his lawyer be allowed to speak there.

Duffy applauded his motion.

Liberal and Conservative Senate caucuses met separately prior to the debate getting underway to discuss their approach to the motions. Some senators on both sides expressed concern about the rush to judgment against the trio of disgraced senators.

“We don’t bring people into court for sentencing before we’ve actually had a discussion about whether they are guilty of anything or what it is they might be guilty of,” said Conservative Sen. Hugh Segal.

“This motion is a sentencing motion. … Something is, in my view, out of order.”

Most other Conservative senators refused to speak out publicly before the debate.

“I don’t make comments on any issues until I hear from everyone, and then I’ll make a decision,” said Sen. Raynell Andreychuk, who represents Saskatchewan.

Sen. Marjory LeBreton responded briefly to an allegation from Duffy’s lawyer, Donald Bayne, that she wrote to Duffy in 2009 telling him that Senate residency rules were not defined.

Asked whether she had sent him such a message, LeBreton said, “Absolutely not.”

Several Liberal senators have said that they oppose the suspension motions, citing a lack of due process and the setting of a dangerous precedent.

“It’s not a process that I’m used to from where I come from,” said Sen. Romeo Dallaire, a retired Canadian Forces lieutenant-general.

“I want to see people go through proper process, no matter what the institution, and certainly no matter what the politics are,” Dallaire said.

“After that, if we’re a country that believes in human rights and justice, then we can at least face each other in an appropriate fashion — not the way we’re going about it now.”


 
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Senate debate begins on proposed suspension of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau

  1. As much as I have the greatest respect for Romeo Dallaire, his comment on this one is highly disingenuous. He knows very well that the Canadian Forces background he refers to can and does deal with individuals on both a disciplinary front by way of formal charges, and on the administrative front by way of various tools, including release, and not necessarily in the way of disposing of disciplinary charges before carrying out administrative action.

  2. With respect to Sen. Romeo Dallaire’s comment – administrative actions are not punishments under the Canadian Force’s Code of Service Discipline.

    Both disciplinary actions under the Code of Service Discipline and administrative actions are meant to address a CF member’s conduct or performance deficiency. They may operate independently or one may complement the other.

    Disciplinary actions and administrative actions serve different purposes. Disciplinary actions possess a punitive aspect that administrative actions do not. Disciplinary action is initiated only if there are sufficient grounds to justify the laying of a charge under the Code of Service Discipline against a CF member.

    Suspending these three senators without pay is a disciplinary action and it is meant to punish them. I think you owe Sen. Dallaire an apology.

    • I beg to disagree with you. I see the suspension and loss of pay as an administrative action; criminal charges would be the disciplinary equivalent.
      As to sequencing, admin action has preceded disciplinary. Case in point: When I was in Haiti with the U.N., the colonel of the regiment, after having consumed more alcohol than the regulations allowed for, relieved his driver of his (loaded) sidearm, got out of the vehicle and proceeded to wave it in the faces of civilians. He was relieved of duty and repatriated within days, with the press release stating that his leadership “did not reflect the leadership standards expected of an officer of his experience and responsibilities”. It must have been humiliating for this officer to have this in our national media. That was the administrative action. The disciplinary action came later through the court martial which, if I remember correctly, imposed a two thousand dollar fine and a reprimand.

  3. If the 3 senators are suspended now in the future any senators suspected of wrongdoing will be suspended as well. What a precendence.