Conservative Senator Mike Duffy leaves Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday June 6, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand The Canadian Press
Several Liberal senators and at least one Conservative, Hugh Segal, will vote against the motion to suspend Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau from the Senate, and cut their pay and benefits.
Wallin and Brazeau entered the Senate chamber at the last minute, walking up the stairs to the door surrounded by reporters and accompanied by Senate security, but not commenting.
And Duffy, who is on sick leave, arrived as well moments later, but kept up a stony silence as he entered the chamber.
The three senators, who are termed Independents, sat together side by side, surrounded by several empty seats.
Liberal Senators Terry Mercer and George Baker said they both intend to speak against the motion in the Senate. Baker believes the motion, if passed, could interfere with the possibility of criminal charges being laid against any of the three senators.
Baker said in an interview the Senate is considered a judicial body, and once it imposes a punitive measure on the senators, a criminal charge would be considered double jeopardy. "You should not foreclose a police investigation, especially when you asked them to investigate," he said, referring to the fact the Senate earlier passed a motion inviting the RCMP to investigate Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.
Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, a close friend of Wallin's, told reporters Tuesday he will vote against the motion. "Gross negligence is a serious term that implies intent," he said, adding he doesn't want to interfere in the police investigation.
Gross negligence is a phrase employed in the motion drafted by Government Senate Leader Claude Carignan to suspend the three senators. It's a charge often used under the Income Tax Act, and can mean knowingly making false statements or omissions in a tax return.
Rob Walsh, a former top legal adviser to the House of Commons, does not believe the motion infringes on any police investigation. "Senate proceedings are isolated unto the Senate. They don't have any bearing and are not relevant and can't be introduced into any proceedings in a court," he said in an interview.
Liberal Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette told CBC News Network she will vote against the motion. Liberal Senator Jim Munson told reporters he will vote no as well.
Conservatives have a large majority in the Senate, almost double the seats of Liberals. Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton pointed out to reporters Tuesday that the Senate has suspended a senator without pay once before, in the case of Liberal Senator Andrew Thompson, for not attending Senate sittings.
On Tuesday, Conservative Senate leader Claude Carignan told reporters there may not be a vote at the end of the day, which means the debate could carry over into the next sitting. Carignan also said any vote by his caucus would not be whipped, meaning Conservative senators can vote according to their conscience.
On Monday, Duffy's lawyer levelled bombshell allegations at the Prime Minister's Office, saying his client's living expenses were "cleared from Day 1" by the office of LeBreton, who was then Senate government leader, and when they later became controversial, Duffy was pressured to take a deal from the PMO or face removal from his seat.
Lawyer Donald Bayne on Monday read from emails purportedly between Duffy and LeBreton's office as well as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright and others to support his claim that Duffy did not knowingly break Senate rules.
Bayne said that when the growing scandal became politically explosive, Duffy was "in effect" told by the PMO not to co-operate with auditors, Bayne said.
PM offers no new info
Bayne said the PMO told Duffy "the Tory base" was offended by his residency claims and he would have to repay money for all four years of secondary housing claims for his Ottawa home. Duffy's objections to repaying money he did not believe he owed, said Bayne, were greeted by "threats and pressure from the PMO."
One of those threats, said Bayne, was that Senators David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, who held the majority on a subcommittee, would declare Duffy's Senate appointment constitutionally invalid if he refused to co-operate with accepting a payment from Wright.
The PMO, Bayne said, came up with a "scenario" and communication lines for Duffy to use with the media about how to explain why he was paying back the expense money.
During Monday's question period in the House of Commons, the prime minister offered no new information to address the claims, repeating what he has said every time he has been asked about the allegations in the ongoing Senate expenses scandal.
"We've been very clear that we expect all parliamentarians to respect the letter and the spirit of any rules regarding expenses, and if they do not respect that, then they can expect there to be consequences and accountability for their actions," Harper said.