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.
Conservative Senator Bob Runciman, a former solicitor general of Ontario, said he has 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. In the Senate late Monday, he indicated he is concerned about a suspension for Brazeau.
Runciman said he agrees with Conservative Senator Daniel Lang that Brazeau met the four conditions necessary to prove he lives in Maniwaki, which he claimed as his primary residence so he could charge expenses for his rented unit in Gatineau.
Brazeau has a driver's licence and health card bearing his Maniwaki address, as well as proof he votes and files tax returns there. A Deloitte audit of his Senate expense claims found he only spent 10 per cent of his time in Maniwaki during an 18 month period.
Lang told the Senate he plans to abstain on the vote to suspend Brazeau without pay, but not for Duffy or Wallin.
Brazeau addresses the Senate
Speaking at 11 p.m. ET, Brazeau conceded this was the last time he might talk in the Senate. In an impassioned speech, he criticized the media and the Senate's committee of internal economy which he said treated him unfairly.
The committee would like him "to be taken out back behind the Library of Parliament and shot ... so unfathomable were my so-called crimes," he said sarcastically. He added, "You're not going to throw this Indian under the bus."
Brazeau said the Deloitte audit calculated he owed only about $144 because the accounting firm found Senate rules on residency were unclear. However a Senate committee decided he owed about $50,000 in inappropriate housing claims.
His voice shaking, Brazeau mentioned his special needs child, and read an address to his other children, saying he was not a thief, and not a drug addict.
After Brazeau spoke, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, who is against the motions to suspend the three senators, attacked a fellow Conservative senator, Pierre Claude Nolin, telling him he was offended by Nolin's earlier statement that due process was not to be trusted because Americans believe in it.
As his voice rose higher and higher, Segal deplored the fact that "we are going to do any darned thing to three members of our chamber, just because we can," his tone peaking at the end of the sentence.
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." However, the decision to allow three votes is up to the Senate Speaker, Noel Kinsella.
At 12:30 a.m. ET, the debate came to an end. A vote on the motion to suspend the three senators will happen at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Questions about the three senators' pensions
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.