Senator James Cowan: 'The faith of Canadians has been badly shaken' -

Senator James Cowan: ‘The faith of Canadians has been badly shaken’


Prepared remarks for Senator James S. Cowan, leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Cowan gave the speech during debate on a report on Senator Mike Duffy:

“The eyes of Canadians are on the Senate today with an intensity, frustration and anger which has seldom been seen before.  I could not have imagined a week ago Thursday when we adjourned for the Parliamentary break that events would have unfolded as they have.

It is no exaggeration to say that the faith of Canadians in the core institutions of our Parliamentary democracy have been badly shaken by those events.

Colleagues, we need to reflect upon what each of us has said and done – and not said and not done – over the past two weeks.

Did our actions or inactions individually or collectively bring credit or discredit to ourselves and this institution?

We on this side of the house have consistently supported measures aimed at investigating in a fair, open and transparent manner allegations of impropriety on the part of certain of our colleagues.  We have insisted that due process be followed and allowed to lead wherever the evidence leads it – including the involvement of outside authorities if that is what is necessary.

Unfortunately that has not been the position of the government.

In normal circumstances, we would support this motion sending the report on Senator Duffy to the Internal Economy Committee for further examination and review.

But colleagues, I must remind you that we are debating the report which Senator Tkachuk tabled here on May 9th and tried to ram through on that day before most of us had even a chance to read it. How wrong that would have been – even without the revelations of the past ten days. On this side, we quite properly insisted that the report be dealt with according to the normal rules- upon our return – a position which I am sure all of us now support in hindsight.

But colleagues, if we send this report back to the committee – and the auditors – for further investigation and report, what confidence can we have that they will be allowed to do their work without political interference from outside – from the leadership of the Senate or the House of Commons or from the Prime Minister’s Office? In view of what they have witnessed to date, I do not believe that ordinary Canadians would have any confidence in this proposed approach.

It is time for us to acknowledge that serious concerns have been raised publicly about how we have dealt with this matter and about our ability to deal with it properly in the days ahead.

This morning, in the National Post, Andrew Coyne began his column on the crisis by referring to provisions of the Senate Conflict of Interest Code, the Parliament of Canada Act, and the Criminal Code, saying that “`serious` does not begin to describe” what is going on.

Colleagues, there can be no business as usual. Enough is enough. This matter needs to be turned over to the appropriate authorities.

In a scrum I gave in the Senate foyer on February 26th, I was quoted as saying that if further action was required as a result of the audit reports, I certainly believed that that action would be taken.

In view of all that has taken place, in view of all that we have learned over the last several days, I am not prepared to stand before Canadians to say that no further action is required. Further action is required.

Consequently, I move that the 22nd report not be referred back to our Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, but that it be referred immediately to the appropriate law enforcement agency, and that the Senate co-operate fully with any investigation that may result.”

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