I guess the Senate is, in fact, where due process goes to die. Our very society, our democracy, is built upon the concept that we are all entitled to due process. Regardless of their racial heritage, gender, sexual orientation, employment status or political preferences, all people are innocent until proven guilty, but, obviously, not here.
The burden of proof lies with the accuser, not with the accused, but, then again, we have unlimited time for the accuser to speak and only 15 minutes for the accused.
At what point upon entry to this chamber do honourable senators lose their memory of and respect for fair process? Does the autumn breeze blow it like dust off their overcoats as they reach Parliament Hill? Due process, never heard of it. What does it mean to believe in a principle? If our principles disappear when tested, then perhaps they were never our principles at all.
I am told that my due process is being suspended today to protect the dignity of the Senate. We’ll get back to that later.
Let us pause for a moment to reflect on what actions would contribute to the dignity of the Senate.
Was it dignified to vote and accept a report that you did not read? Please allow me to remind you that because you did not read the Board of Internal Economy’s report regarding my housing claims, you were unaware that the board ignored the advice of an outside auditor. The Deloitte report clearly and unmistakably faulted the Senate for its incoherent policy, but you remain in the dark about this because you did not read the details before voting to sanction me. Colleagues, I ask you: How does that protect the dignity of the Senate?
Your Board of Internal Economy developed a new four‑part residency test to determine primary residence. The outside auditor determined that I meet that test. We’ll get back to that later as well.
What you failed to tell your audience is that the outside auditor found a troubling lack of clarity in your policy. So incoherent is your policy that this well‑respected and renowned auditor was ultimately unable to come to any clear decision on the data before them. They were clear on only one point, that the current Senate policy is insufficient and incoherent.
Yet, there you are in your splendour, assuring all Canadians that the bad guys have been found, that the policy is clear and all is well. How does such duplicity in any way contribute to the dignity of the Senate when you fail to hold your Board of Internal Economy to account for charging taxpayers for the services of an expensive auditor whose advice they chose to disregard anyway? Does this contribute to the dignity of the Senate?
When rules are changed behind closed doors and sanctions imposed retroactively, does that contribute to the dignity of the Senate? When no one can explain why the rules and procedures do not seem to apply equally to all, and when honourable senators offer up the feeble excuse that “it’s not my job to know this or that,” is the dignity of the Senate now protected? Paying lip service to due process while removing every vestige of it does nothing to protect the dignity of the Senate. While we might not find due process enacted in every corner of this country, one certainly would expect to find it in an institution at the heart of federal policy and law‑making.
Let’s bring some context to the issue at hand. In November of 2012, a report from the media source of CTV came with their very unbalanced and sensationalist report. We saw on TV people saying they never saw me in the town of Maniwaki. Well, I was called to appear before the subcommittee on internal economy to refute, because that was the mandate of the subcommittee, to look into the media reports considering residency. Well, I did that. You know, I’m going to say this outright, because I can. That was a kangaroo court at its best. I appeared before three members of the subcommittee on internal economy, and they didn’t even know what questions to ask of me. Everybody was uncomfortable. But here’s the fact: I am the one who provided the information that the Senate now utilizes for the criteria for primary residence. And the Deloitte auditors said that of all the senators that they looked into, I am the only one who met all four criteria. Yet I hear that there’s an RCMP investigation going on in these matters. Well, I don’t know, because I haven’t been personally approached by any RCMP officer.
Now, so if the Deloitte auditor said that I met all four criteria for primary residence, why is there an investigation at all? What did I do? I’ll tell you what I did.
Before I started claiming the housing allocation, I asked Senate administration if I could claim, and I have it in black and white: Yes, I could. I went further and asked: Well, can we claim just for the sitting months that the Senate sits? And the response that I got back in black and white from the Senate administration is: No, you can claim for the entire year.
Okay, so I did that. In black and white I had it from the Senate administration that I was eligible to claim expenses. But here’s a go‑getter: Senate administration, throughout all several months, asked my assistant: Why isn’t he claiming any per diems? Well, I’m a better cook, and I cook at home. I never claimed per diems or incidentals. In fact, my expenses, my travel expenses, I believe, are under the amount of $5,000. And I never hid the fact that when I did go back to my primary residence, I claimed. When I did not go, I did not claim. It’s no one’s business what any of us do on our personal time, as long as we’re not billing the taxpayer, and I never billed the taxpayer for that. The auditors also highlighted that fact ‑‑ fact, not innuendo, not sensationalism ‑‑ fact. I’ve been asking for quite some time to have an open meeting of the Board of Internal Economy, because what goes on in those back rooms, we don’t know. We don’t sit on that committee. It’s a little bit ironic that it’s the Board of Internal Economy that also approves the expenses that we submit. Yet, they’re there judging us or judging some of us or trying to. Well, we all know what this is about, but we’ll get into that as well.
Now, a little bit of further information and context. Soon after this story broke in November of 2012, I was in the hometown of Senator Tkachuk, in Saskatoon. I was traveling on committee business at that time, and I got a call from his office, saying that he wanted to talk to me, so I called him. He had some serious concerns with the media report that had come the night before, and he asked me this one question: Did you submit any false claims? My response was: Absolutely not. I guaranteed him on the phone; it was about 11:00 in the morning, Saskatchewan time. But he asked me that question: Did you submit any false claims? I said: Absolutely not. He says: Well, then you’ll be fine.
During the Conservative caucus’s Christmas party on the Senate side, in December of 2012, which was just before I appeared before the subcommittee on internal economy, I had a private discussion with Senator Tkachuk, and I asked him: Why was it that only I and Senator Harb at the time were going to appear before the subcommittee? I mentioned my colleague’s name: Why isn’t Senator Duffy who, you know, there were allegations of housing issues with respect to my colleague as well, and I asked: Why isn’t he being required to appear before the subcommittee? I quickly assumed, correctly, that they wanted to protect Senator Duffy but use Senator Harb and Senator Brazeau, myself, as scapegoats to protect Senator Duffy. This is no disrespect to Senator Duffy, but this is my calculation of what was going on here. And if you recall, Senator Tkachuk, I sang you a wonderful song because I quickly figured out what was going on here, and I sang the Garth Brooks song: I have Friends In Low Places because I knew at that time what was going on.
So I meet before the subcommittee. I provided all the information, not that they requested, because they didn’t know what to request. I and my legal counsel provided the information, again, which sets the basis for primary residence. So all of you, I’m sure, after April 1, signed a declaration of primary residence, and you have to meet all four criteria. The auditor said that I met all four criteria. I still meet four criteria, but I get a letter from internal economy saying: Oh, no, no, not you, Senator Brazeau, you are not eligible for any expenses due to housing because ‑‑ well, we don’t know.
How can that happen? Is this not a democracy?
I have been asking for months and months to have a public hearing so I can tell my side of the story, and I have been denied at every turn.
This is not administrative. This is not a legal battle between lawyers in here trying to interpret what the rules and regulations are. No, this is political abuse of power at its most.
Senator Carignan talked about the power that the ‑‑ I’m sort of speaking like Senator Baker here. Not as well versed, but with the hands, you know.
I’ve been trying to have a fair process, and I’ve been told no at every turn. I demanded to speak to the motion with respect to my suspension. I was denied.
Like I said, Senator Carignan was talking about the power the Senate has, but he forgot the outright abuse of power which is trying to be tested here.
It is a complete joke. I mean, you talk about protecting the dignity of the Senate, well, I have nothing to hide. Do any of you? Open up the meetings so that we can move beyond this; we can get to the heart of this matter.
I’ll use the words that Senator LeBreton used at my expense several weeks ago, in which she called me a failed experiment. Well, the way the leadership on the other side and the Board of Internal Economy has managed this issue is a complete farce. And that has been a failed experiment.
We talk about gross negligence, or some talk about gross negligence. Well, let me speak about gross negligence. The only gross negligence here, we don’t have to wait for Stephen Harper, or whoever the next Prime Minister will be, to reform this place. We don’t need to wait for the Supreme Court to reform this place. We can reform this place by making the Board of Internal Economy public to all Canadians.
Because you make decisions in the back rooms, in the back doors that nobody knows about; yet you’re ready to throw three of your own under the bus just to protect yourselves. Well, I’m going to tell everyone here: you all better be clean before you make these types of decisions, because if you could look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m clean,” then you have a right to vote.
I’m telling you and all Canadians today, I am clean; I did not do anything wrong. If I did, I’ll take responsibility, but give me the opportunity for you to tell me, in my face, where I went wrong, which rules did I break, any wrongdoing that I may have made.
No, instead we have the Board of Internal Economy going against the Deloitte report, going against their own rules as they go along, they make up each and every day, for political purposes. Give me that opportunity.
All I have to say, in conclusion — and I’ll keep it short, because I’ll probably get that opportunity — but I’ll just say again to all Canadians: if this is the Harper government’s way of believing in democracy and exercising democracy, I think we should all be very fearful. This is a complete joke, a complete farce. And, Stephen Harper, you lost my vote.