Threats, vendettas, labour ‘exploitation’ and mortgage fraud: The week that was in the Canadian Senate

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The Senate has become the story that just keeps on giving.

The dramatics in the upper chamber are poised to continue on Thursday afternoon with more debate on three separate Conservative party motions to suspend Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau for "gross negligence" related to alleged misuse of public funds.

And we could actually see a vote today.

It's expected that, on Thursday, Senators will vote on a Liberal party amendment which would require the suspension motions to be referred to a special Senate committee that could have powers to call witnesses.

If the Liberal motion passes, it would certainly indicate a rift in the Conservative caucus.

In that case, it would mean that some of Stephen Harper's handpicked Senators would be voting against his desire to have Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau out of sight and hopefully out of mind.

[ Related: Full text: Pamela Wallin’s statement in the Senate ]

The vote would cap an eventful week in the upper chamber that long-time Ottawa pundits are calling one of the spectacular in recent memory. (The Senate doesn't generally sit on Fridays.)

It got underway Monday, with an explosive press conference by Duffy's attorney Donald Bayne who publicly claimed that his client did nothing wrong — 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.

He alleged that it was staff at the PMO who concocted a plan to have Nigel Wright give him money to repay Senate expenses and forced him to cooperate under threat of expulsion.

It was Duffy's turn on Tuesday: the former broadcaster took the Senate floor in his defence suggesting the the prime minister told him: "Do what we want — or else."

[ Related: Do we, the Canadian public, owe Sen. Mike Duffy an apology? ]

And then, on Wednesday, Wallin spoke to her colleagues telling them that the Conservative Party leadership in the Senate had a vendetta against her.

"[Stewart Olsen] and Marjory LeBreton could not abide the fact that I was outspoken in caucus, or critical of their leadership – or that my level of activity brought me into the public eye and once garnered the praise of the prime minister," Wallin argued.

"They resented that – they resented me being an activist senator."

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

If that's not enough drama for you, two other Senate stories made the headlines.

As reported by CBC News, Liberal Senator Colin Kenney's former assistant is alleging that she spent half of her work days taking care of her boss' personal tasks.

"Pascale Brisson spent less than three months in Kenny's office. But in that time, she found herself saddled with a host of mundane tasks; booking medical appointments for the senator, arranging payments for his credit card and utility bills, even finding him a personal trainer," notes the report.

This week, we also learned more about the RCMP investigation into the financial dealings of now-retired Liberal senator Mac Harb.

As explained by the Toronto Star, Harb is now being investigated for mortgage irregularities in relation to a home he used to claim a Senate living allowance.

In an affidavit filed to support a production order, the RCMP says “Harb was granted a mortgage on the (Cobden) property on October 12, 2007 for $177,000. Later that same day the property was sold to (Magdeline) Teo, with Harb maintaining a 0.01 per cent interest in the property. The sale price was $567,000. Harb’s $177,000 mortgage was not discharged until 2011. Obtaining a mortgage on the property and then transferring 99.99 per cent ownership of the property to Teo on the same day potentially put the bank at risk,” the affidavit states.

“Further investigation found that Harb purchased a home in Westmeath in 2010, and obtained a mortgage from RBC for $240,000. At the time, he listed 62 Durack Line Road in Cobden as a solely owned asset, when in fact he only owned 0.01 per cent of that property. This again put the bank at risk. Both of these transactions are now subject of this ongoing investigation.”

After a week like this, you have to believe that those "abolish the senate" petitions — here, here and here — will get a boost.

With all these great stories, however, don't expect us journalists to sign them.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

Are you a politics junkie?
Follow @politicalpoints on Twitter!