Sen. Mike Duffy takes the elevator as he arrives at the Senate on Parliament Hill Monday, October 28, 2013. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Senator Mike Duffy let loose in the Senate again Monday, alleging the prime minister's former chief of staff arranged for not one cheque to him, but two.
Duffy told the Senate he has a cheque, negotiated by Nigel Wright, in the amount of $13,500 to pay for his legal fees, on top of the $90,000 from Wright to be used to repay his expenses. Duffy said he has the emails and the cheque stub to prove it, adding the $13,500 was paid by the Conservative Party's top lawyer, Arthur Hamilton.
"That's right," thundered Duffy. "One cheque from Nigel Wright? No, ladies and gentlemen, there were two cheques, at least two cheques."
"Are we independent senators or PMO puppets?' roared Duffy, referring to the machinations of the Prime Minister's Office.
Taking aim, Duffy brought up Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen, Harper's former press secretary. Wright wrote him, he said, assuring him his expense claims were proper, saying, "I'm told you complied with all the applicable rules and there would be several senators with similar arrangements."
Was Wright referring to Stewart Olsen, Duffy asked, a senator appointed to represent New Brunswick, who, he said, "took two years to move from her home in Ottawa to her home in New Brunswick."
Stewart Olsen, who just resigned from the Senate internal economy committee that passed judgment on Duffy's expenses, has denied she has been asked to repay any money to the Senate.
Duffy referred several times to an "email chain" he said is in the hands now of his lawyer and, he hopes, the RCMP. The emails, he said, would show the involvement of not only Hamilton, but former PMO lawyer Ben Perrin, who Duffy said "is actively involved in vetting resolutions for the party's national policy meeting in Calgary."
Duffy said what he called "this monstrous fraud" against him was a creation of the PMO from the beginning.
"Have you heard enough," asked Duffy, "or do you want to hear more?" as senators in the chamber listened.
Duffy overran the 15 minutes he was allowed to speak, but the Speaker granted him a few more minutes.
Invoking the Magna Carta and former prime minister John Diefenbaker's bill of rights, Duffy urged the government leadership in the Senate to withdraw these "dangerous and anti-democratic motions, declare victory and go off to Calgary to celebrate the government's many substantial achievements for Canadians."
The Conservatives' national policy convention, postponed due to the Calgary floods, begins on Thursday.
Duffy also said what he called mistakes made in filing his expense claims amounted to only $2 a piece, considering he undercharged for some filings, he said.
Duffy's latest broadsides against the PMO and Conservative Senate leaders came after CBC News learned there will be no decision Monday on a change to the motions to suspend senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin without pay over their expense claims.
The Senate has been debating facing motions put forward by Senate leader Claude Carignan last Tuesday that would strip the three of their pay, office use and all benefits until the next session, about two years.
But in a caucus meeting Monday, Conservative senators discussed whether to amend the motions to allow for a more lenient penalty for three senators — one that would bar them for a shorter period of time and allow them to keep their benefits.
That won't happen Monday, though a compromise motion is still on the table.
The Senate will vote Monday evening on an amendment proposed by Liberal Senator James Cowan to refer the issue of the suspensions to a Senate committee.
The two-year suspensions are meant to penalize them for inappropriate expense claims. All three have repaid thousands of dollars, although only Wallin did so voluntarily.
Duffy's repayment was in fact a $90,000 gift from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's then top aide, Nigel Wright, and Brazeau has had his wages garnisheed and has not fully reimbursed the approximately $50,000 the Senate says he owes.
Carignan has heard from several Conservatives who are upset by what they consider extremely harsh sanctions even though none of the three senators has been charged with a crime. All three are being investigated by the RCMP.
Senator Don Plett, a former longtime president of the Conservative Party, has declared he will vote against Carignan's motions, saying he's particularly worried about the cut-off of health benefits, considering Duffy is a heart patient and Wallin is a former cancer patient.
Open to amendments
Carignan himself seems open to lighter penalties, especially for Brazeau and Wallin. He told Radio-Canada that Brazeau believed he could legitimately charge expenses due to claims he lived out of town because of documents he obtained from Senate administration staff.
"I believe he didn't interpret them properly, but we see there was an element of good faith," Carignan said.
Wallin, Carignan continued, made "an impassioned plea, a good plea" before her Senate colleagues, but he seemed to draw a line at Duffy. Duffy, said Carignan, "chose to settle political scores" in his speech to the Senate last Tuesday.
Carignan said he wants to listen to the Senate caucus and will consult with them Monday about amendments to his motions to suspend the three senators without pay.
However, both Harper and Senator Marjory LeBreton, the former government Senate leader, said in interviews on private broadcast stations early Monday that a majority of Conservatives favour the suspension motions as they are, without amendments.
Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, who is against the motions to suspend, said to reporters as he went into the Conservative caucus meeting Monday, "What Harper says is very important, but our oaths to our majesty to do what's right — that's more important than what a politician says."
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, talking with reporters before a meeting with private-sector economists, said he doesn't want to be distracted by answering questions about whether Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau should be suspended.
"I'm actually an advocate of abolition of the Senate." Flaherty said. "I always have been, and I think just in this day in age to have a non-elected legislative body is an anachronism."
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