In his own words: Patrick Brazeau's speech on Nov. 4 - Macleans.ca

In his own words: Patrick Brazeau’s speech on Nov. 4

The embattled senator defends himself in the chamber

by

Fred Chartrand/CP

Sen. Patrick Brazeau stood in the Senate at about 11 p.m. on Nov. 4. Here are his remarks, in their entirety:

Honourable senators, depending on the outcome of the votes tomorrow, I fully acknowledge that this might be the last speech, so I hope you will indulge me with the time I need to say what I have to say.

For the record, I’ll state that, ironically, Senators LeBreton, Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen, and Nigel Wright, are no longer in their positions. Geez, I wonder why. I think that those three individuals in particular have a lot to tell to Canadians — the story and the whole story.

But I stand accused today in a shameless farce, a show trial, a gong show the likes of which has never been seen in Canadian history. Time may run out before my side ever gets told in its entirety, but here for the record are the facts.
I understood that, in keeping with Senate policy, some honourable members rented a home in the National Capital Region year round. Since the Senate doesn’t sit year round, I asked my office to clarify the housing policy. Surely one would rent only for the months that the Senate sits. An inquiry was sent to Senate Finance March 8, 2011. The reply came back that day, in keeping with the policy, I should rent for the entire year.

I trusted my colleagues and I trusted Senate Finance. I did not expect the rules to change. I did rent an apartment in accordance with the policy. I submitted the lease and filed the appropriate paperwork in keeping with that policy.
In December 2012, when CTV aired a very selective, sensationalist, misleading, tabloid-style report on my housing situation, Mr. Robert Fife’s story mentioned the rule that to claim allowance, one’s designated primary residence must be within 100 kilometres or more from Ottawa. Mr. Fife did not refer to any other elements of the policy, including the fact that it is a system of designation.

Mr. Fife interviewed selected citizens of Maniwaki. Honourable colleagues, people of Maniwaki have lives to lead and do not spend their time verifying my activities or whereabouts. Aside from being a huge intrusion into my privacy, Mr. Fife’s story gave the impression that because these individuals had not seen me, that I was therefore somehow in violation of Senate policy.

Mr. Fife did not name any rule, guideline or policy that I had broken. The story was meant to suggest impropriety without demonstrating it through evidence. That is certainly one way to do investigative journalism. One hopes that some journalists still do believe that evidence, rather than mere insinuation, should play at least some part in news reports. What Mr. Fife’s story omitted was in fact the citizens that he did interview who did confirm that I lived in Maniwaki. Maybe that’s for another day.

Immediately after the Fife report aired, my father and other family members were beseiged and harassed by reporters. Friends and acquaintances in Maniwaki were also targeted by reporters looking for so-called dirt on Brazeau. This harassment took a personal toll on everyone in my family. It is hard to understand unless it has happened to you — called at all hours, reporters hiding behind bushes, people following you. My children too felt the stress of this harassment by the media. I apologized to them for what they experienced. They did not deserve it.

In response to this misleading, irresponsible and incomplete news report, a subcommittee was struck to examine this exact news report. That was their mandate. I was invited to appear, and I did, bringing along documents which I hoped would assist the committee. It is fortunate that I did bring those documents along because the committee members had no idea what to ask to establish my residency under Senate rules.

Colleagues, if Senate housing rules are perfectly clear, as Senate leadership repeatedly insists they are, why was it so difficult for this committee to know what to ask of me? If everything is so clear, why were they so stumped? If the rules were so clear and unambiguous, as they say they are, it should have been a simple matter. Either I was complied with Senate policy or I was not. But they had no idea how to proceed.

I gave them documents and expected the matter to be closed. After all, I was compliant with the policy and had submitted documents that refuted Mr. Fife’s allegations and insinuations. But the matter was still not closed, not by a long shot.

Deloitte was engaged to examine my housing claims. I was extremely eager to work with Deloitte because I wanted to put the matter to rest, not just to clear my name but to put a stop to the constant, unending harassment of my family by the media and others. Certainly professional auditors would soon verify I was compliant with the policy and the matter would be closed. As you know, the matter was not to be closed.

I was given an advance copy of the Deloitte report but, interestingly, not an advance copy of the report by the subcommittee of Internal Economy, nor the Internal Economy report, which is now chastising me.

Many of you have admitted that you did not spend very much time reading either report yourselves. These documents could not be more different. You may have had a moment before voting to read the riveting conclusion of Internal Economy’s report. The way they tell it, I should be taken out back behind the Library of Parliament and shot for my thievery and deceit, so grave, so atrocious, so unfathomable were my so-called crimes.

We all know that you accepted your colleagues’ report without looking back at what they did not tell you. What exactly is it that they did not bring to your attention? Is it something, perhaps, that folks would rather not see? What was in the Deloitte report that failed to capture attention? Was it that it was too uncomfortable to discuss?

The Deloitte report found that there are serious flaws in Senate policy. There are either missing or contradictory definitions for the following five terms: number one, primary residence; number two, secondary residence; number three, National Capital Region residence; number four, provincial residence; and number five, registered residence.

This is a huge indictment of Senate policy. Deloitte found the policy to be so fatally inadequate and incoherent that they were unable to even begin to address the status of my primary residence against any existing guidelines. What Deloitte was able to confirm was that I met the four newly created indicators of the primary residence test. They also confirmed that, unlike most senators, I did not charge any per diems for food and incidentals.

Oddly, the Deloitte report discusses where I go on my personal time off, another huge invasion of my personal privacy. Where a senator sleeps or goes on his or her time off is not part of the Senate housing policy and is, quite frankly, nobody’s business.

I did not charge the taxpayer for trips here and there, calling it official business, as is done by many senators and MPs. Let’s be honest: You don’t even know any more what the definition of official business is.

The question must be asked: Why did Deloitte try to measure my behaviour against guidelines which do not exist? Is this standard auditing practice? I can understand measuring behaviour against past policy as well as current policy, but to measure past behaviour against policy that may exist one day in the future? Is that standard auditing practice?

You’ll have to wonder who in this chamber, or perhaps elsewhere, instructed Deloitte to audit using rules which are not in existence. If you’re not curious about that, if you’re not curious about how the Deloitte contract was managed and handled and possibly manipulated, then respectfully, you’re going to remain willfully uninformed.

Rather than owning up to the embarrassing and inexplicable shortcomings contained in Senate policy, Internal Economy decided to publish a fictional work in the form of a report suggesting that the definitions are in fact, as they quoted, absolutely clear and unambiguous. How, dear colleagues, it is that something can be both lacking clarity and completely clear is perhaps like the sound of one hand clapping or of the tree falling in the forest.

The Orwellian reinterpreting of Deloitte tabled by Internal Economy appears to be the only document honourable senators read before voting to impose serious financial penalties against me. You then impose punitive measures on me without pointing to one single rule, one single policy or one single guideline breached by me, or giving me a chance to defend myself in this chamber or elsewhere.

My repeated, continuous, unrelenting calls for explanations have been ignored. I have been ignored. I hear I’m a friend that you only want to help, yet I am ignored. It seems to me that if a friend is being treated unfairly, you try to help them right the wrong, but you continue to ignore me. I ask why?

My office began a rigorous campaign to try to understand what had happened, to blow the whistle on the lack of due process and to get the matter re-examined.

A letter dated May 16, 2013, was sent to Senator David Tkachuk, who was then chair of Internal Economy. The letter was sent from Debby Simms, my policy adviser, via Senate email and was followed by hard copies. It went to members of the subcommittee as well. To date, there has been no response from David Tkachuk or the other members. Again I ask, why not?

How can it be that my letter went ignored and unheeded? Is this due process? Is this your call for sober second thought? As far as I’m concerned, I’m still a human being and I deserve at least some level of respect. As your colleague, I deserve and still deserve substantive response to the letter I sent you over six months ago.

Letters of concern were also sent to the Auditor General and to the Senate Ethics Officer. Surely someone would want to look into the outrageous misrepresentation of the Deloitte report on the part of Internal Economy but, as we were to learn, there is no earthly power with the authority to oversee or audit the behaviour of Internal Economy. They can do what they like to whom they like, when they like and how they like.

They do not need to explain or justify their decisions. They are by every measure above the law and they need to answer to Canadians ‑‑ LeBreton, Tkachuk, Stewart Olsen.

On June 17, 2013, every honourable senator was emailed a list of 20 questions pertaining to the lack of due process regarding the work of Internal Economy on my housing claims. There were three replies, all of them indicating not to expect one. Not only would they not explain what rule I had broken, I was not worth the trouble of talking about it.

Some honourable senators will gossip anonymously to the media, casting themselves as saviours out to save a supposedly drunken, drug‑addicted Indian, while at the same time appearing before TV cameras and crowing about how disgusted they are with my behaviour regarding my housing claims. This is an interesting way to care for a friend.

I also learned in the media that an honourable senator said anything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. Well, I may not have attended private schools or written books or travelled the world doing great things, as many of you have, but at least for the moment I am still a sitting senator.

My concerns merited your attention. There was no concern about my rights to due process; there was no sober second thought. We sent you 20 questions five months ago. You haven’t considered them worthy of response. You don’t care about those questions, and I ask again, why?

After all these failed attempts to get the attention of my colleagues, there was not much left to do but to monitor the Internet for stories about my housing claims. Frustratingly, the same error was found again and again and again. They are still reporting the error. Last week the falsehood was reported in an editorial in the Chronicle Herald and just a few days ago in a CTV report based on an email from the PMO.

From PMO, honourable senators; the Office of the Prime Minister of Canada, we learned from CTV, says that an independent audit found me guilty of misdeeds and owing money. What kind of information is being fed up to PMO from the leadership here? Did they just send the Internal Economy report without the embarrassing Deloitte report?

Speaking truth to power is hard but always a good idea. Did Senate leadership speak the truth to the PMO? How is it that the PMO is so badly misinformed? Deloitte did not ‑‑ and I repeat ‑‑ Deloitte did not find any wrongdoing by me, so why is the PMO saying this now? Again, I ask why?

Each time this falsehood about Deloitte finding fault with me was found in news reports, my office sought out the journalist responsible and asked them to look at the Deloitte report rather than simply reading the report of Internal Economy.

To their enormous credit, those dedicated journalists did so and duly changed their reports to reflect the facts. Deloitte found no wrongdoing by me. It was a secret committee which created that alternate reality, that politically useful fiction. Deloitte had faulted Senate policy. You won’t find that inconvenient fact of life in a press release from anyone but me.

It is not honourable to accuse me of trying to rip off the taxpayers when I have not done so, and when it is you who has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to be scolded by Deloitte. Did you really need Deloitte to tell you that your policy pants are around your ankles? Forgive me, but really not.

Honourable colleagues, how could Internal Economy ignore Deloitte’s warnings about the serious flaws in Senate policies? Why would they do that? Again, I don’t understand. It is incomprehensible to me that the Senate of Canada does not care that their policies have been found by an independent audit to be so inadequate as to be completely useless, yet I stand here on trial now. Deloitte didn’t find me guilty. They found Senate policy grossly inadequate ‑‑ so inadequate that it cannot be properly used in an audit.

To summarize, for the record, I did not claim per diems while in the National Capital Region, unlike many honourable colleagues and senators and MPs. I don’t want the taxpayer money for lunch; I bring my own lunch.

I do not know the number, but I understand that many honourable senators lease a home in the National Capital Region year‑round. It seemed to me that one would lease a home only for the months the Senate sits. That’s why I specifically asked for clarification from Senate Finance. They told me in writing I should claim for the year. I took Senate Finance at their word that this was the policy, and I understood that I was not only following the rules but I had written confirmation that I was following the rules.

I had very limited travel expenses: just under $6,000 over a two and a half year period compared to many others. I met all four residency criteria set out by the Senate because of me. The reason why many of you senators are able to claim today is because of the documentation that I brought to prove my primary residence. However, Internal Economy decided otherwise, in secret, behind closed doors. Every time I had assumed I had finally demonstrated once and for all that I am complying with the policy, some moved the goalposts.

Internal Economy came up with new criteria. I was found by Deloitte to meet all of them, yet here I am on trial. I don’t understand. Deloitte found only one travel period that they said was subject to interpretation and determination by the subcommittee regarding an amount of $144.97. Note that Deloitte did not say this money was to be reimbursed by me. Deloitte did not find me owing any money whatsoever. I am here standing on trial for $144.97; not that I owe back, but has been questioned.

Deloitte found that the Senate housing policy, which seems to be forever in flux, has some serious flaws. Senate housing policy is still missing basic definitions. Good policy always begins with defining its terms properly. For reasons I do not fully understand, Internal Economy ignored Deloitte and created their own reality for political purposes and expediency ‑‑ finding me guilty for something all of a sudden. Which rule did I break? They still don’t say.

Why was the Senate of Canada not alarmed when an independent audit found their housing policy to be so badly flawed? Deloitte said, “We would like to assess this senator against your guidelines, but we can’t make heads or tails of your guidelines, so we cannot assess.”

Deloitte could not assess, honourable colleagues. I repeat, Deloitte could not assess, but you have assessed on your own. Again, for political purposes and expediency, let’s throw them under the bus. Well, you’re not going to throw this Indian under the bus or else you better have big spokes.

In politics, as I have learned in grand fashion in the most publicly humiliating way possible, if someone can accuse you of going against the spirit of the law for their own political purposes they will. Hence the need for sound, firm, precise and clearly articulated definitions. Were you in my position, you would feel the same.

I’m being judged by senators who claim per diems while in Ottawa, who claim much higher travel than I have, who themselves may or may not meet the residency criteria — however, those criteria are being defined today — and who have higher contested expenses than I do, surely higher than $144.97.

Let’s take Senator Stewart Olsen. She had expenses questioned. She used to be part of Internal Economy, yet she’s being protected by the party. It’s okay for her.

Senator Boisvenu: Several months ago, even he admitted in black and white to the media that he had a similar situation to mine. I separated from my wife, which led to this issue. The same thing happened to Senator Boisvenu, and he admitted in black and white, “Well, I falsely claimed,” so he paid back an amount of approximately $900, while at the same time admitting to journalists that he would go back to Sherbrooke once or twice a month, which is exactly what I did. I never hid that fact.

What I do in my private time is my private time, but why is he being protected and I’m not? I’m being judged by senators who claim per diems while in Ottawa. Again, I have to repeat, for $144.97.

Colleagues, in light of these facts, I am hereby waiving my privileges and requesting that the transcripts from all my meetings with the subcommittee, Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, including all meetings between Internal Economy and Deloitte dealing with my issue, be tabled. And I’m also requesting the cost of the audit regarding my housing issue to be tabled.

Additionally, colleagues, I humbly request that you consider the full and complete findings of the Deloitte report, including their finding about the inadequacy of Senate policy, before imposing any penalties proposed on October 17, 2013.

I would like to broaden my initial request for a call for a public inquiry into the matter of the relationship between Deloitte and Internal Economy and its members. What was the nature of Deloitte’s mandate? I never received it. Did Deloitte’s mandate change throughout the audit? Were all members of the Deloitte team comfortable with assessing behaviour against criteria which do not exist? Are there records of conversations between Internal Economy and Deloitte or the PMO? Was Deloitte the victim of political manipulation?

You may get me out of the way today, but these questions will remain on the record forever.

I submit that it is in the public interest that there be a full and complete accounting of the management of the Deloitte contract so that Canadians can finally know the whole truth. In addition, the Board of Internal Economy must be accountable to all Canadians. We cannot have this committee meeting behind closed doors, making decisions that can ruin people’s lives to cover their own behinds.

When people have something to hide, they change the subject, they change the channel, they insist there is nothing to see here and let’s go on to the more serious, more important work. Yes, we’ve seen that in the last two weeks. When you have nothing to hide, you seek openness and transparency. You ask questions when something doesn’t make sense and you keep asking until it does.

I am asking and have been asking, and yet all my questions remain unanswered, and I ask, again, why?

I would like to personally express appreciation to the honourable senators who did approach me and who are willing to take a sober second look at the motions that pertain to me in particular. Colleagues, it was never my goal to bring dishonour to this place or to you. I never wanted to cause anyone here personal stress, embarrassment or shame. I sincerely regret what you have all experienced; $144.97 should not be the cause of all this.

I cannot speak to the cases of my colleagues, but I can certainly speak to mine. I’m here for $144.97. Because I’m being thrown under the bus, because Internal Economy completely ignored the Deloitte audit, I am about to be suspended with pay, which will severely affect my children, including my special needs child, and my family.

In closing, I would like to address my children directly so that it is in the permanent record that they can read some day.

You are too young to understand what is going on here. I am much older than you, and I barely understand. It is very important that you understand that I am not guilty of what some of these people are accusing me of. It is very important that you know that I am not a thief, a scammer, a drunken Indian, a drug addict, a failed experiment or a human tragedy. That’s for you, LeBreton. Your father is a man who took things at face value, who maybe didn’t question things enough. I never deliberately sought to take anything that did not belong to me. I was trying to follow the rules but, somewhere along the way, something went wrong and I’m here for it now, and I don’t understand why.

It is important to know that your father is an honourable man ‑‑ not a perfect man, but a man who is always striving to become a better one. I am so sorry for what you have experienced. We will get through this. I love you.