The political floodgates burst last week with bombshell statements from Senator Mike Duffy, his lawyer Donald Bayne, Sen. Pamela Wallin, and Sen. Patrick Brazeau.
Sen. Duffy with his “Just the three of us” speech to an audience of jaw-dropped senators threw down the gauntlet for the expenses scandal right at PM Harper’s feet when he claimed Harper ordered him to repay the expenses whether they were claimed correctly or not. Perception, not fact, was Harper’s driver, Duffy claimed.
Donald Bayne minced neither words nor emails when he said Duffy was threatened by the Prime Minister’s Office with wholly unconstitutional and illegal procedures to throw him out of the Senate without a hearing if he didn’t go along with a plan to repay $90,000 (given to him by then PMO chief of staff Nigel Wright). And, Bayne cautioned, there’s plenty more emails for a court hearing.
Sen. Wallin, who has repaid approximately $140,000, went after the Deloitte review calling it flawed and unfair with confusions about the rules and the dates in their summary of her expenses.
Then, at the end of the week, Sen. Brazeau claimed he was offered a backroom deal by the government leader in the Senate, Claude Carignan. If he stood in the chamber and apologized to Canadians for his expenses, the Senate would go easier on him with a lighter punishment.
Each of the senators, while seemingly math challenged, had an argument to be made in defense of their pay cheques as they stared down a harsh motion to suspend them without pay or benefits for two years.
This scandal has so many moving parts that PM Harper’s spin doctors and fixers can’t keep up. Harper claimed all year he knew nothing but Duffy and his lawyer blew that up with email quotes. Given what a control freak Harper is, it’s hard to believe he didn’t know what was going on in his own office.
Harper and the Conservative Party have been damaged by this mess. Harper wants this over, especially with a conservative convention at the end of the week. The Senate has accused the three errant senators of “gross negligence”, an inappropriate charge with legal ramifications. Even the RCMP which is currently investigating the expense claims has not laid any charges yet.
The uproar has driven fractures into the supposedly solid Conservative caucus. Sen. Don Plett and Alberta MP Peter Goldring have spoken out against the motion with questions that others in caucus and Canadians across the country are asking.
Where is the right to fair and due process? Why now? What’s the rush? Can the Senate suspend the senators who have re-paid expenses, given an accounting of their side of the issue (which deserves further explanation to Canadians) and who have not been charged by the RCMP? Maybe the Senate needs some legal advice of its own as to what it can and cannot do before it rushes to judge.
On Monday, there could be a motion to shut down debate unless the moving parts move again. But that would cut off information Canadians deserve to hear. For all the woeful wailings of senators denied due process while sharpening their resumes, the real victim here is the taxpayer shelling out dollars to bankroll this circus.
But there’s a strategic reason for Harper to cut off this mess now. Due process takes time and the outcome of any court proceeding or police investigation may hit the fan right when the 2015 election machine fires up.
That he-said-she-said debacle heated up so fast last week that the Red Chamber looked like it was in flames. In truth, the one who is really getting burned is the taxpayer.