News Canada

Condemned senators facing reprieve?

Mark Dunn. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

By Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

OTTAWA - 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper urged his hand-picked team in the Senate on Wednesday to quit dilly-dallying and get on with suspending three of his appointees.

 

“The Senate has a choice in front of it. It has a motion in front of it,” Harper said in the Commons, where he faced another grilling over the spending scandal and the role his office played based on a series of bombshell accusations by Sen. Mike Duffy

“It is very clear what we expect in this particular case ... there has been a breach of public trust, claiming expenses to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars that should never have been claimed,” he said.

Harper wants all three -- Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau -- off the public payroll – preferably before he delivers his keynote speech Friday evening at a party convention in Calgary.

His angst follows a series of missteps and miscues by Conservative leaders in the Senate and Liberal shenanigans that have delayed a final vote on the fate of the three senators.

The latest fumble came Wednesday over a government notice to end debate that was ruled out of order by the Speaker.

Government leader Claude Carignan has sent conflicting messages about softening the sanctions to suspend the trio without pay and benefits for the remainder of the session because of pressure by some Tories calling for leniency.

Last week he said he would entertain amendments to shorten what could amount to a two-year punishment while his deputy leader, Yonah Martin, floated the idea Tuesday night of suspensions without pay, but with benefits.

After Wednesday’s ruling, the government will table a new motion allowing the trio to keep some benefits - dental, medical and life insurance - that could come to a vote Friday if the stars align, but more likely sometime next week, Conservative senators said.

While the Senate was mired in procedural wrangling, Harper was training his sights on Thomas Mulcair over the NDP leader’s attacks over a $13,560 legal bill the Conservative party paid on behalf of Duffy on top of the $90,000 Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, gave him to cover expenses.

Harper has said it’s not unusual for parties to pick up some legal costs incurred by parliamentarians and reminded Mulcair of the legal bills and the nearly $100,000 judgment the Quebec Liberal Party paid on his behalf for libel in 2002 when he was in provincial politics.

Mark.Dunn@sunmedia.ca

Twitter:MarkDunnSun

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