Maclean’s Guide to the Senate Scandal: Now with late-evening tweeting via @TheBrazman

News, features, transcripts, timelines, audio, recaps and so on


Adrian Wyld/CP

The Senate expenses scandal has taken its toll on some of Parliament Hill’s former celebrities. We’ve spent months chronicling the misadventures of famous names like Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, whose stars have fallen in the wake of embarrassing audits into their travel bills and living expenses.

As we head into a new week, Sen. Patrick Brazeau appears ready to take on the Senate — at least to judge by a sample of tweets from his Twitter account on Sunday evening:

Needless to say, we’ll be watching.

Maclean’s published two must-read profiles of Wallin and Duffy. We looked at their high-flying, partisan lives in the Red Chamber. We also trace the Prime Minister’s involvement in the ongoing scandal, and muse about the future of the institution. For good measure, Scott Feschuk lampoons Senate expense forms.

Before we get to that, here are the latest headlines:

And here is everything you need to know about an extraordinary couple of weeks in Canadian politics:

Click the photos below for more from our Senate file.

When the scandal exploded in the House of Commons, we followed the heated exchanges. If you missed it, you can still catch up.

Jonathan Gatehouse
Anne Kingston
Aaron Wherry
Manisha Krishnan
Nick Taylor-Vaisey
Emmett Macfarlane 
John Geddes and Aaron Wherry
Scott Feschuk

About the Senate scandals

Stephen Harper rarely attends Question Period on Mondays, but Oct. 21, 2013 proved an exception to that general rule. The Prime Minister took questions on the Senate expenses scandal from deputy leaders on the NDP and Liberal benches, and the House warmed up for a string of raucous QPs to follow.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the House, focusing exclusively on the Wright-Duffy affair. On Tuesday, Harper passed off many of those questions to his parliamentary secretary, Paul Calandra. The next day, the PM changed tack, answering just about every question put to him. On Thursday, with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on a sojourn to Washington, D.C., Mulcair and Harper spent the better part of thirty minutes going toe-to-toe.

Throughout, Mulcair was fuelled by the testimony of Sen. Mike Duffy and Sen. Pamela Wallin, two former Conservative senators who’ve turned on their old colleagues. Harper was forced to react, bobbing and weaving and mostly sticking to his script. One slip on Thursday caught attention. Harper had formerly said Nigel Wright, his ex-chief of staff, had taken full responsibility for the cheque he gave to Duffy to cover improperly claimed expenses. The PM changed his tune slightly, repeating that Wright had told “very few” people about that decision. No word on how many is a few, and who the few were.


Maclean’s Guide to the Senate Scandal: Now with late-evening tweeting via @TheBrazman

  1. If I may offer a more philosophical comment, isn’t it remarkable that we now suddenly have this huge scandal – all this coverage – all these belly laughs – just because the kind of thing that’s been happening every week since 2006, the bribes and the bullying and the bungling, the authentic Stephen Harper MO, has simply poked its head out and for once gone on the record? But this is how a Harper Ottawa works! This is our democracy! This is what we’ve become! Does it matter if a few Wrights and LeBretons go to jail? We need cultural change — an end to Duffyism, not just to Duffy. We need it desperately.

    • Since 2006? How old are you? Seven?

      • I’m a tad older than that; I remember Ottawa in the Mulroney years. There’s no comparison between the Harper PMO and any of its predecessors.

        • Agreed, at least Harper is trying to take out the garbage.

          • Do you mean the “garbage” he appointed to the senate?

          • He should go with it.

  2. Two of the most powerful media machines ever in Canada. Wallin and Duffy were given full reigns to the trough at the senate with harpers full consent, and now he(harper)wants them dumped, well I think harper should have given every Canadian a kiss at the same time, because their is nothing better than being kissed while your being, well you know what I mean.

  3. [“Obviously, I didn’t know,
    and obviously had I known, I would have told Mr. Wright not to take
    these actions,” said Mr. Harper, adding “I think I had every right to

    Obviously he knew what was happening in his office. Wright, a
    personal friend, resigned to give the PM plausible deniability. At
    least that much is believable.

    Lawyers use the term “wilful blindness” to describe a PM who wants
    something ‘fixed’ and wants to be able to later say he knew nothing
    about it and when that blows up he fires the loyal servant who was
    protecting his boss. Did they ever discuss this eventuality? Wright
    knew why he was working there. He understood his role.

    That won’t wash.

    If this PM was honourable, he would resign. But that isn’t the way
    politics plays. It’s an amoral environment where individual morality is
    supressed to manage situations and people. It will never be anything

    Good people come and go from government. It’s a real shame to see a
    fine institution strong armed into doing the wrong thing to save a PM’s
    hide just before a political convention. That’s hardball.

    • Give me a break. You honestly think politicians are angels? In my view the only thing Mr. Harper should be chastised for is picking a sleazebag like Duffy to begin with.

      • Politicians are mugs. There is nothing in anything I have written that would suggest anything else.

      • True, but he manned up and is taking out the garbage, or trying anyways.

        Trudeau is quiet as he doesn’t want the offshore tax evader Senator dragged in.

        Mulcair rather feed his self important belligerent idiocracy with grand standing. I got a kick out of Mulcair stupidity in bashing Harper for $13k of legal fees when it turns out Mulcair did the same thing for $100k.

        Maybe someone should ask Mucair if he drinks too much and forgets things he does then becomes critical of others doing the same.

      • It’s not Harper’s fault that he hired an enethical cheat like Nigel Wright.
        Wright collected a taxpayer funded salary while he betrayed both the PM and all of Canada by writing cheques that enabled Duffy to continue his run of malfeasance.
        Nigel Wright is pretty much a traitor to Canada, but you can’t blame Harper for that. After all, Harper completely degraded and humiliated Wright by firing him, right?

        • Are you sure? Harper said that Wright resigned, but has recently used the word fired. It is more likely that Wright resigned and both men remain friends.

    • Funny, you leftie fleabaggers love your myopic hate of Harper so much you overlook the obvious.

      Harper is trying to take out the garbage and all Mulcair wants to do is chirp and vilify to feed his self important ego.

      Harper clearly shows he is a better leader.

      • That’s spin won’t work, sorry. He appointed them, he initially defended them, he lied about them, now he owns them.

      • How does a Monarchist leaning idealist like me become a “leftie fleabagger?”

      • Even Paul Bernardo got his day in court and if you think there is a bigger heap of garbage than Bernardo, then you’re not paying attention.

  4. Desperate senators and a desperate Prime Minister. Who do you
    believe? You could withhold judgement until the police investigation is
    completed. You could take the position that the PM, in a corner, has to
    hold his position, even if he has to lie to do it; a dozen or more
    members of his office knew, but he didn’t know that Wright would propose
    his own money. Still, what was the deal in exchange for the $90,000?

    Wright has taken the fall so that the PM has “plausible deniability,”
    but with so many people in his office aware of facts that the PM claims
    he didn’t know, one senses that his deniability isn’t plausible.
    Lawyers refer to it as “the doctrine of willful blindness.”

    The PM ought to have known, if he didn’t know, and it is
    inconceivable that so much could be happening without his knowledge in
    his office. That will stick to him, if nothing else does.

    If the Senate had already been abolished before this happened, the
    expenses would not be an issue, but we would know less about how the PM
    conducts business. We wouldn’t have the stark reality, the Machiavellian
    nature, the crass political animal that resides at the centre of his
    personality. Thankfully, we have a Senate.

    Politicians fudge, leave out important details, and outright lie.
    That alone isn’t reason to dump Harper, or anyone else. It’s the fact
    that he was unable to pull off this political subterfuge without being
    caught up in it. And, it’s the fact that he was willing to risk the
    reputation of every senator to save himself.

    That institution was designed to function independently of party
    politics, not at the centre of it. Every senator was ‘thrown under the
    bus’ and because Parliament is ours, not his, we are being run over too,
    and the motion to expel the wayward senators without ‘due process’ is
    the bus backing up over all of us a second time.

  5. http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/10/15/stephen-harpers-senate-dilemma-when-and-how-should-the-pm-fill-vacant-seats-in-the-red-chamber/

    [“Among the many challenges the ever-widening Senate scandal holds for Prime Minister Stephen Harper is one for which there appears to be no happy answer, politically: When — and how — should he fill vacant Senate seats?

    Mr. Harper’s last mass appointment of people to the Senate, in 2008, included Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy. That one-day infusion of 18 Conservatives into the upper chamber gave the Conservatives a majority in the Senate. But those three are now among the senators embroiled in controversy over how Senate expenses are claimed.

    Mr. Harper still has a healthy majority in the Red Chamber, but there are currently six vacancies. By the end of 2013 there will be seven. By the end of 2014, there will be 12. And if no one is replaced, by the fall of 2015, when the next federal election is expected, there will be 14 vacancies as senators retire. (Among those leaving will be Marjory LeBreton, the former government Senate leader and a key Harper ally.)”] excerpt from the Article.

    The Senate is designed so that it matters little whom the PM appoints; he cannot assume that friends will support his legislation. Appointees tend to grasp the fact that they hold positions largely independent of the PM and Parliament which promotes an independent attitude, which is precisely the point of the place.

    PM’s imagine that they have a Senate they can control, but find that control elusive. That’s the genius of that great institution. Senators can thumb their noses at their parties, if necessary, and vote as they like. Only last June that happened and it must have been quite a surprise to Harper.

    Harper would like to reform the Senate so he can control it. Thankfully, that won’t happen. That’s the irony of the place; the Senate is an undemocratic institution in its design, but it functions quite successfully in a democratic system of government by fostering opinions and ideas that do not slavishly follow scripts crafted by political parties.

    No single institution has done more to foster the ideals of a democratic Parliamentary system. It’s an appointed body that reviews legislation sent to it by the lower, elected House of Commons. Though it seldom rejects proposed legislation outright, it has shown the courage to do so, as it did last June (Bill C-377) when it sent legislation, with amendments, back to the House. To a PM like Harper, this is an affront to his authority and position.

    Critics, like Andrew Coyne for one, have said that the Senate lacks legitimacy.
    “They have the legal power to do so, without a doubt. What they lack is the legitimacy. And lacking such legitimacy, it has been the custom and convention they should not pretend to assume the role of elected legislators, or usurp the authority of those who are. A Senate that confines itself to reviewing legislation passed by the Commons may be tolerated, barely. A Senate that takes it upon itself to rewrite it is an abomination.” (excerpt from an article June 28,2013 . see link http://o.canada.com/news/natio…

    That is precisely what the Senate was created to do; oppose legislation, propose revisions, even reject legislation from the House of Commons. I was overjoyed when it happened. The appointed Senate is the last bastion of democracy when a PM, with a majority, elected by a minority of the popular vote, can pass any legislation he (or she) presses in the House of Commons.

  6. Interesting selection of stories but where’s the one about Mac Harb? The last time I checked, he owed the most.

    • What exactly would you like them to print regarding NEWS about Harb.


      I think if you went into the news business, you would be challenged.

      • Hm. Perhaps that’s why the Western Standard suffered the fate it did.

  7. deet

  8. Too bad politicians were not effective, efficient and ethical….

    If they were they would just abolish the useless senate and eliminate the waste.

  9. It is unlikely that the convention will ‘solve’ anything for the Conservative Party, unless a decision is made to replace their leader. That doesn’t seem likely.

    Harper has so little credibility left, that even loyal Conservative voters will be rationalising their vote before they cast it, in the next election. They will be arguing with themselves as they grasp the lever. Every one of them is being mislead by their leader and, like the rest of the country, they don’t enjoy the uneasy feeling that something dreadful has happened and they only know half of it.

    The conspiracy theorists like the idea that Harper has executed a plan to discredit the Senate by appointing rogues whom he knew would overturn the applecart. If this is the untold story, it is unlikely that Harper anticipated the backwash.

    There are those who have concluded that Harper is the victim in a crisis about which he knew nothing, hatched in his office by 13 co-workers who tried to shield him from himself and, despite being a control freak, their plans were successfully isolated from him.

    There are people who blame the PMO, with or without the PM, and those who blame the Senate and argue that that great institution is a curse on all of us and advocate abolition or drastic reform. Those people need to reflect on such drastic change, assuming it is constitutionally possible, because there are ramifications to this kind of radical reclamation. One vital result would be this; any PM with a majority government would become a dictator, for all intents and purposes, because, without a Senate positioned between the House of Commons and the GG, legislation would move directly to Royal Assent, without review.

    That cannot be allowed to happen, because fundamental democratic freedom and the supremacy of Parliament would be forever lost. That was the fundamental achievement of a bicameral Parliament. The Senate was designed to be an appointed body, in which members would represent regions of the country, not individual citizens. They were handsomely paid, given long terms of office, and positioned to be aloof of daily politics, despite the obvious fact that PMs try to manipulate their legislation through the Senate as if it was a rubber stamp for their aspirations.

    The framers of our Parliamentary system knew that would happen, but they calculated that a sense of independence would pressure senators to act independently of the House and political parties. While that may seem remarkably naïve, the men were experienced, practical individuals who were deeply sceptical of democracy. They imagined a PM with a majority who would reach too far, not because he was evil, rather because he would be drunk with power, intoxicated with the awareness that he could do whatever he liked until the next election.

    If we lose the Senate, we lose a vital check on the ambition of a Prime Minister. In the ‘First by The Post’ electoral system, a PM with a majority can pass any bills in the House. Our electoral system would have to change if the Senate is abolished, or if elections for members are introduced. Such fundamental change would be far more problematic than proponents of abolition have considered.

    It would mean the adoption of a Proportional Representational Voting system, which would protect our liberty by making majority governments impossible. Australia has such a system, but implementation here seems so remote, because politicians seldom pass legislation that reduces their power and influence, even if that would be good for the country.

    Politicians are good people, with ethics, who enter politics unaware of the price they must pay as they cope from crisis to crisis. They find themselves in an amoral relationship with their parties, duties, and obligations that frustrates their efforts to act and think honourably.

    We are watching this process and expecting politicians, event the PM, to resign. He would show enormous courage and fine character if he did, but he has a competing obligation to serve as PM until the next election. It is his constitutional duty. He must be a conflicted man, every morning, as he looks in the mirror and reaches for the shaver. He must be acutely aware that he is caught between a rock and a ‘hard place.’

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