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Updated: Mon, 04 Nov 2013 19:27:50 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Senate can vote separately on Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau suspensions



Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau have denounced the proposed suspensions as a violation of their fundamental right to due process and the presumption of innocence. Canadian Press

Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau have denounced the proposed suspensions as a violation of their fundamental right to due process and the presumption of innocence. Canadian Press

As the Senate prepares for a vote on whether to suspend three senators for inappropriately claiming travel and living expenses, some Conservative members say they have been assured they will be able to vote on the fate of each senator individually.  

The vote will decide whether Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau are to be suspended without pay but be allowed to retain health and dental benefits, as well as life insurance.

On Monday evening the Senate voted to limit debate on the suspension vote. Although five Conservatives either voted against the motion or abstained, the move to impose closure passed handily.

It means the Senate has up to six hours to debate the suspension motion. Although senators are sitting Monday night for that process, the vote on the futures of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau is expected Tuesday.

Some Conservative senators have raised concerns that the motion would mete out the same penalty for each senator, even though the details of their cases are different. 

Bob Runciman, a former solicitor general of Ontario, said he's been assured he can vote on each case separately.

Runciman made it clear he is loath to vote against a government motion, but is satisfied he will be able to abstain in the case of one of the senators. He won't say who that senator is.

A Senate source told CBC News several Conservative senators expressed anger at a Conservative Senate caucus meeting last week about how unfair they felt it was not to be able to distinguish how they voted about each senator.

The amount of money each owed in disallowed expenses varied: Wallin repaid the most money, at $140,000; Duffy's $90,000 tab was paid on his behalf by the prime minister's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright; and Brazeau, whose wages have been garnisheed, is still repaying the $50,000 assessed to him

Claude Carignan, the government leader in the Senate, told reporters Monday in the Senate foyer, "We want to have three separate votes for three different senators."

The motion to suspend Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau is divided into sections A, B and C, with the each senator's name attached to each section.

During debate Monday, Conservative Senator John Wallace argued against a motion from his own government to impose time allocation on the suspension motion. He deplored what he called "the one size fits all" approach that lumps three senators' suspensions in one motion, and argued the three need "all reasonable time and every reasonable opportunity" to defend themselves.

Some Liberal Senate sources wonder how the Conservative Senate leadership will divide one motion into three votes, especially since a closure motion is being imposed to limit debate time on the one motion.

Liberal sources point out dividing one motion into three votes has never been done before and is without precedent in Senate history.

Some senators have been trying to find out if the three senators facing suspension will be allowed to stay in the Senate pension plan, if they are allowed to keep their benefits.

Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau, all Conservatives, took their Senate seats in January 2009 and each has two years to go before becoming eligible for a Senate pension (eligibility begins at age 55, although only Brazeau is under 55).

Their suspensions, if the vote passes, will last until the end of the Senate session, two years from now when the next federal election is expected.

Senate administration was unable to provide details to CBC News last week about whether the suspension time will count as pensionable time if the three are suspended without pay this week.

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