OTTAWA – Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were cast Tuesday into political limbo — suspended by the Senate and reviled by their former Conservative colleagues, including the prime minister who appointed them.
All three have maintained they’re the victims of a politically motivated witch hunt aimed at putting a lid on a Senate expenses scandal that has engulfed Stephen Harper’s government for almost a year.
“I think it’s an extremely sad day for democracy,” Wallin said as she exited the Senate chamber after the vote, her voice heavy with emotion.
“If we can’t expect the rule of law in Canada, then where on earth can you expect it?”
Brazeau said nothing as he left the Senate. Duffy did not show up for the vote.
The trio retain the title of senator and their health, dental and life insurance coverage, but get no pay and lose their Senate privileges and resources for the duration of the current parliamentary session, which could continue for two years.
Harper’s office expressed satisfaction with the suspensions, which followed weeks of emotional, often explosive debate, punctuated by bombshell revelations from Duffy that directly implicated the Prime Minister’s Office in the scandal.
“Removing these three senators from the public payroll was the right thing to do,” the PMO said in a statement.
“They should not be collecting a public paycheque.”
While the vote to suspend the trio marks the end of a protracted and politically damaging debate, the shock waves wrought by Duffy are still reverberating for Harper and his Conservative government.
The RCMP is investigating the three senators, as well as former Liberal senator Mac Harb, and the steady drip of revelations from police documents filed in court is sure to continue to keep the scandal front and centre.
Indeed, just hours before the Senate voted to suspend the three, Harper endured another question period grilling, this time about a leaked letter that shows the RCMP is seeking documents that “may potentially be evidence of criminal wrongdoing” by some in the Prime Minister’s Office.
In particular, investigators are looking for emails related to a “script” Duffy said he was given by the PMO to cover up the fact that Nigel Wright, Harper’s chief of staff at the time, gave him $90,000 to repay his disallowed expenses.
Duffy has alleged that Wright, under instruction from the prime minister to make a political embarrassment go away, orchestrated a “monstrous” conspiracy to cover up the transaction. He claims PMO concocted a false story about him taking out a bank loan.
The move to suspend the three one-time star Conservative Senate appointees caused tensions within Tory ranks. But in the end, only one Conservative senator, Hugh Segal, voted against all three suspensions.
Six more Tory senators abstained on the motion to suspend Brazeau, four abstained when it came to Wallin and Duffy.
Most Liberal senators voted against the suspensions but seven, including Liberal Senate leader James Cowan, abstained — taking the advice of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.
In the end, senators voted 50-29 to suspend Brazeau, with 13 abstentions, and 52-28 to suspend Duffy, with 11 abstentions. In Wallin’s case, the vote was 52-27, with 12 abstentions.
Brazeau, who voted against the motion, sat hanging his head as the vote proceeded, then stood and shook the hand of Liberal colleague Jim Munson before leaving the chamber after the results were announced.
Wallin sat on the edge of her seat, her hands clenched in front of her, twitching her thumbs as the Yes votes were catalogued. She voted against suspending Brazeau and Duffy but chose to abstain when it came to the vote on her own fate.