Former Conservative leader in Senate says Mike Duffy’s defence “not based in fact”

Senator Marjory LeBreton (CP file photo)Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton — formerly the government's leader in the the upper chamber — is poking holes in Senator Mike Duffy's story.

On Tuesday, Duffy had the opportunity to address his colleagues ahead of a vote on a Conservative Party motion to have him suspended from the Senate, without pay, for gross negligence in relation to misuse of his Parliamentary budget.

During his dramatic defence, the former broadcaster said that LeBreton told him it was okay to claim a Senate living allowance.

[ Full text of Senator Mike Duffy's speech to Senate ]

He also alleged that the PMO concocted the plan to have Nigel Wright — the prime minister's former chief of staff — give him money to repay expense claims and forced him to cooperate under threat of expulsion.

During Sen. LeBreton's rebuttal in the Senate on Thursday, she made no secret that she's not a big fan of her former caucus colleague.

"There is no doubt...that Senator Duffy is a good communicator. He is a professional journalist after all..and is known as a great storyteller," she said.

"It was often said that he could sell air conditioners in Siberia. I well remember his words to me and others who would complain about his particular style of political journalism. It's show biz he would say. It's show biz."

[ Related: Threats, vendettas, exploitation and mortgage fraud: The week that was in the Canadian Senate ]

In his speech, Duffy had alleged that LeBreton and Harper's new Chief of Staff Ray Novak called him on the evening of May 16.

I was called at home in Cavendish by Ray Novak, senior assistant to the prime minister. He had with him Sen. LeBreton, leader of the government in the Senate. Sen. LeBreton was emphatic: The deal was off. If I didn't resign from the Conservative caucus within 90 minutes, I'd be thrown out of the caucus immediately, without a meeting, without a vote. In addition, she said, if I didn't quit the caucus immediately, I'd be sent to the Senate ethics committee, with orders from the leadership to throw me out of the Senate.

LeBreton admits to the phone call but insists that's not what was said.

"I asked the question 'what deal' when he said the 'deal was off," LeBreton said Thursday.

"We layed before Senator Duffy two scenarios: Scenario one that we could put out a statement [saying] 'Sen. Duffy has informed me that he has resigned from the caucus to sit as an independent Senator.' And scenario two that I would put out a statement saying 'given the growing the number questions relating to Sen. Duffy's conduct, he has been removed from the Conservative caucus.'"

LeBreton also took exception to Duffy's characterization of his February 13th meeting with Stephen Harper and Nigel Wright where he said it was "just the three of us."

"Now this is a clever turn of phrase painting a picture and leaving the impression that this was a separate private meeting," Lebreton said.

"What he should have said -- if he had been speaking accurately -- was 'so at caucus on February 13, at the end of the meeting, I spoke to the prime minister and Nigel Wright in the caucus room.' This would have been a more accurate description of the exchange."

Finally, Lebreton asked that the Senate require Duffy to table any correspondence with her that he claims he has.

"I simply want to put on the record that the story that Sen. Duffy spun in this place is not based in fact and is certainly leaves open to question what he was talking about or what on earth he was thinking," she said.

[ Related: Should Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau be suspended from the Senate? ]

In addition to LeBreton's speech, Senators spent until midnight Thursday debating the motions to suspend Duffy, Sen. Pamela Wallin and Sen. Patrick Brazeau and a Liberal amendment to send the motions to committee.

Two Conservatives — Senators Hugh Segal and Don Plett — spoke against the motion to suspend.

The Senate will reconvene for a rare Friday sitting at 9am (EST).  A vote could happen on Friday.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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