Sen. Mike Duffy smiles as he takes an elevator on Parliament Hill on MondayThey've all given impassioned speeches in their defence, but it looks like the three senators at the centre of the expense scandal haven't won the battle of public opinion.
Last week, Sen. Mike Duffy told the Senate that the Prime Minister's office and Senate leadership told him it was okay to designate his PEI home as his primary residence even though he lived in Ottawa most of the time.
Sen. Pamela Wallin said that the Conservative Party leadership in the Senate had a vendetta against her and Sen. Patrick Brazeau claimed he played by the rules.
But, according to a new Ipsos Reid poll released late Monday, the majority of Canadians still believe that the trio should be suspended without pay, immediately.
Amid allegations of “gross negligence” on the part of Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau relating to improperly filed expense claims, a new Ipsos Reid poll conducted exclusively for CTV News has revealed that three quarters (73%) of Canadians believe that these three Senators should be ‘immediately suspended from the Senate without pay’, while just one quarter (27%) believe they should be ‘allowed to collect their pay and sit as Senators until the RCMP completes its investigation’
Clearly, the senators' public denials of any wrongdoing hasn't convinced Canadians.
It appears that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was correct on Friday, during a radio interview, when he suggested that Canadians were onside with the three Senate motions to suspend the senators, without pay immediately.
"It is beyond the shadow of a doubt that these senators in some cases have collected literally up to six figures of ineligible expenses – did so willingly over a long period of time," Harper told host John Tory.
The survey isn't all good news for the Conservatives.
When given the phrase: "I believe Prime Minister Harper when he says he did not know about his former Chief of Staff Nigel Wright writing a personal cheque for $90,000 to pay back Senator Mike Duffy's inappropriate expenses," 63 per cent of those surveyed disagree.
Moreover, 81 per cent agree that there should be a public inquiry into the Nigel Wright-Mike Duffy affair.
The survey was conducted between October 25th to 28, 2013 — before Senator Duffy's latest bombshell on Monday where he claimed that, in addition to the $90,000 cheque used to repay his Senate expenses, Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton paid his legal fees.
"Contrary to the prime minister's assertion on CFRB last week, that he ordered repayment because 'Senate expense rules were' in his words 'beyond the shadow of a doubt broken,' he had my legal fees fully paid. Why would he do that? He would never do it if he believed my expense claims were improper," Duffy told his Senate colleagues.
"He did this because as I've said from the start, this was all part of his strategy. Negotiated by his lawyers and the Conservative party's lawyers to make a political situation, embarrassing to his base, go away."
The fall-out from Duffy's latest allegation — both inside and outside Ottawa — remains to be seen. On Tuesday, Conservative Senators were continuing their discussions about the potential of softening the sanctions against one or more of the senators.
It's also expected to be another raucous Question Period in the House of Commons.
(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)
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