The scandal over the Senate grew larger Monday, with allegations from Senator Mike Duffy’s lawyer that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office knew a lot more about Duffy’s controversial expenses than the PM is admitting.
These are simply allegations from a lawyer, but there is a hint that Duffy has some evidence to back these claims, in the form of emails from the prime minister’s office (PMO).
The impetus for this extraordinary spectacle of a senator in disrepute taking aim at the prime minister who appointed him to the Senate is a move being pushed by the Conservatives (almost certainly crafted in the PMO). They want to take away the pay of Senators Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau — even though Duffy and Wallin, as yet, are facing no charges. Brazeau is facing charges in a domestic dispute, and has been suspended with pay from the Senate. His expenses are also in question, but he faces no charges on this matter yet.
While public opinion likely backs the suspension of the three senators’ pay, all of us, even senators in disrepute, deserve fair process. To take away the pay of senators who have been accused of wrongdoing in the media, who are under investigation but not facing any charges, is moving far too swiftly and sets a very bad precedent.
There may well be a case for suspending Brazeau’s pay, given that he is facing criminal charges, but for the moment Duffy and Wallin should have the right to confront their accusers head-on and sit in the Senate until charged with criminal offences.
The uproar over their expenses is legitimate, but it is not yet a criminal matter. Suspending their pay is a brazen attempt to try and take the heat off the prime minister, who appointed all three and campaigned on a platform of Senate reform.
The Conservatives and PMO cooked up a scheme which may come back to bite Harper in a very severe fashion.