Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau were all in attendance in the upper chamber on Tuesday as debate began on Conservative party motions to suspend the trio without pay for "gross negligence" of their Parliamentary budgets.
It was pre-dubbed an epic political show-down, and the Senators didn't disappoint.
After lengthy preambles by Conservative Senate leader Claude Carignan and Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan, Mike Duffy stood up to defend himself suggesting — as his lawyer did at a press conference on Monday — that he did nothing wrong.
Earlier this year, Duffy was forced to repay $90,000 in what has been characterized as an improperly claimed living allowance — the $90,000 he used to repay the Senate came from Prime Minister Harper's former chief of staff Nigel Wright. Duffy claims that scheme was concocted by the Prime Minister's Office by threat of expulsion.
Here's some of what Duffy had to say on Tuesday:
- About a February 13th meeting with Nigel Wright and the prime minister.
Duffy alleges Harper said: "It’s not about what you did. It’s about the perception of what you did that’s been created in the media. The rules are inexplicable to our base."
Duffy says, "I was ordered by the prime minister to pay the money back, end of discussion."
- About what former government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton said to him when she asked him to resign from the Tory caucus:
"It’s the only way to keep your pay cheque"
- About Nigel Wright's decision to gift him $90,000 so that he could repay his housing expenses:
"The PMO piled on the pressure. Finally, the message from the PMO became, 'Do what we want — or else.'"
"Don't worry Nigel said, I'll write the cheque. Let the lawyers handle the details and we'll keep [Internal Finance Committee Senators] Stweart Olsen and Tkachuk at bay."
- About his regret for accepting the deal:
"I wish I had the courage to say no back in February when this monstrous political scheme was first ordered."
- About losing health benefits if he's suspended from the Senate:
"Who's going to buy the heart drugs I need?"
Full audio of the Duffy's speech can be heard here at the CBC.ca website.
According to CTV News, the prime minister's office has responded to Duffy's allegations saying that Harper met once with Duffy on February 13th after a caucus meeting.
"The Prime Minister was adamant that he (Duffy) should repay any inappropriate expenses," the PMO said.
"That is the only time the PM discussed Mr. Duffy's expenses with him, and he was clear that inappropriate expenses should be repaid."
Senator Patrick Brazeau also had the opportunity to speak. Here's some of what he had to say:
"I am clean. I did not do anything wrong..give me the opportunity to tell me in my face where I went wrong."
"This is a complete joke, a complete farce and Stephen Harper you've lost my vote."
Wallin didn't speak but likely will on Wednesday when debate resumes.
Both the Conservative and Liberal leadership in the Senate have indicated that Senators will be allowed to vote according to their consciences on the suspension motion.
To complicate things further, however, the Liberals have put forward a separate motion, calling for the Conservative motion to suspend the senators to be referred to a special Senate committee.
A vote on the motions is not expected until at least later this week.
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