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Senate drama resumes Monday

Mark Dunn. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

By Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

(From left to right) Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

(From left to right) Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA – Three senators under threat of expulsion without pay and benefits for two years should learn their fate by mid-week after the government moves Monday to lower the curtain on the political theatre gripping the capital.

The government leader in the Senate, Claude Carignan, opened the door Friday to the idea of shortening the suspensions and will assemble his Tory colleagues before debate resumes to hear them out, but amendments are unlikely to pass muster with the majority in the 60-member caucus.

Some Tories have expressed reservations about the treatment of Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau and have raised arguments they haven’t been given the proper forum to defend themselves while police continue to investigate spending abuses.

“Not only are these motions unprecedented in Canadian history, but in passing them, we would be setting a very dangerous precedent that any parliamentarian could be subjected to, should their expenses or conduct be called into question,” said Tory Sen. Don Plett, a former party president.

Carignan has ruled out entertaining any changes that would allow the trio to collect salaries while suspended, saying that would amount to paid vacations.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper appears dead set against retreating, saying “there is absolutely no doubt what these three senators did.”

He said in interviews he wants them off the public payroll and that private sector employers wouldn’t wait for the outcome of a police investigation if one of their workers made improper expense claims.

The three senators used appearances last week to defend themselves and to rally against the proceedings some have called bizarre, and to drop a few bombshells.

Duffy said he was the victim of a conspiracy and coverup orchestrated by the Prime Minister’s Office to accept a $90,000 payment from Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.

Wallin said her rights were being trampled and that the Senate was not going to allow her a fair hearing because “due process is not possible in this chamber where it seems the majority wants to put my head on a platter.”

She also accused two senators of plotting her ouster out of jealousy.

Brazeau bolted from journalists after saying Carignan had offered him a backroom deal to go easier on him if he apologized, but Carignan said their conversation was misinterpreted.

A vote could be held Wednesday after the government limits debate, a day before Tories gather in Calgary for a policy convention that was postponed in July because of flooding.

 

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