'We want to get this out of the way,' LeBreton says of suspension motions
Andrea Janus, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, October 27, 2013 10:58AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 27, 2013 12:09PM EDT
Sen. Marjory LeBreton says the federal government’s push to suspend three senators from the upper chamber “isn’t rushing the process,” despite accusations it wants to get a politically damaging story out of the headlines before the Conservative convention at the end of the week.
The ongoing Senate expenses scandal heated up last week, after the three senators facing expulsion alleged they were victims of conspiracies, personal vendettas and backroom deals.
The bombshells were dropped as senators debated motions, put forward by Sen. Claude Carignan, to suspend Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau over alleged “gross negligence” related to their expense claims.
On Thursday, Sen. Yonah Martin moved to make the suspension motions government business, which would limit debate and force a vote early next week.
When asked whether the government is rushing to get the senators out of the headlines ahead of the Conservative convention that opens on Halloween, LeBreton said the expense scandal has been going on for more than a year.
“This is not rushing the process. The fact is we have three senators abusing privileges in the Senate, they have caused great damage to the institution,” LeBreton told CTV’s Question Period.
“The Senate has within its powers to discipline from within and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
When pressed about the move to invoke closure, LeBreton said “we’ve got important things to deal with in the Senate,” such as debate over the Throne Speech and the recently announced free trade deal between the European Union and Canada.
“We’re not motivated or being driven by the Conservative convention,” LeBreton said. “We want to get this out of the way, the public is demanding this.”
Liberal Sen. James Cowan, who put forward a motion calling for special committee hearings before senators decide on what to do with Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau, said “this sort of lynch mob mentality is not the way to do business.”
Cowan said the Senate has done what it can for now, having ordered the outside audits of the senators’ expenses and referring the findings to the RCMP. He said the senators should face sanctions, but the upper chamber should first ensure its actions won’t jeopardize a police investigation.
He also accused Carignan of proposing a “one-size-fits-all sanction” against the three senators.
“Why is he doing it? The only explanations I can think of is they’ve got a Conservative convention next week, they’d like to get this over before then, there’s a lot of public opinion which is negative about all this,” Cowan said.
“And they are afraid about what these people might say if they continue to have Parliamentary immunity. So they are trying to sweep this under the carpet.”
Monstrous conspiracy, personal vendettas
Earlier in the week, Duffy said he was the victim of a “monstrous conspiracy” by the Prime Minister’s Office to get his expenses repaid and out of the headlines, and said he was threatened with expulsion from the Senate if he didn’t go along with the plan.
Duffy said it was the prime minister who ordered him to repay the money, which Harper confirmed but maintained his long-held position that he had no knowledge of the deal with Wright.
On Wednesday CTV News reported that at least 13 Conservative insiders were aware of the deal, prompting intense questioning from the opposition on Thursday. Harper answered those questions by saying that Wright told “very few people” about the deal.
Meanwhile, Wallin alleged that she was the victim of “personal vendettas” by LeBreton and Sen. Carolyn Stewart Olsen and that the motion to suspend her was “baseless and premature.”
And on Friday, Brazeau alleged that Carignan took him aside that morning and offered him a “backroom deal” of lighter sanctions if he stood up in the Senate and apologized for filing ineligible expense claims.
Carignan confirmed that that he had spoken to Brazeau but said Brazeau had misinterpreted his remarks.
On Question Period, LeBreton repeated assertions that she doesn’t have a vendetta against Wallin, called Duffy’s claims of a conspiracy “laughable,” and said “I frankly don’t believe” that Carignan offered Brazeau a deal, a statement she also made Friday on CTV’s Power Play.
She also said she, too, had no knowledge of the Wright-Duffy deal, despite until recently serving as government leader in the Senate.
LeBreton, who has worked for decades on Parliament Hill, including time as deputy chief of staff to former prime minister Brian Mulroney, said she believes Harper was unaware of the deal until Wright confirmed to him that media reports were true.
“Your job in the prime minister’s office is to solve problems and deal with matters and keep them away from the prime minister and the government,” LeBreton said.
The Senate will reconvene at 2 p.m. ET Monday to debate the closure motion.