Harper to blame for expense scandal, former senator says

A retired senator from Manitoba says Prime Minister Stephen Harper has no one to blame but himself for the Senate expense scandal.

Current Manitoba Senator Don Plett defends colleagues Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau

Many Manitobans, including former Liberal senator Sharon Carstairs and current Conservative Senator Don Plett, are talking about the ongoing Senate expenses controversy. 1:47

A retired Liberal senator from Manitoba believes Prime Minister Stephen Harper has no one to blame but himself for the Senate expense scandal.

Sharon Carstairs said when she entered the Senate almost 20 years ago, no clear information was given on how senators were expected to file claims if they were appointed from other provinces.

Former Manitoba senator Sharon Carstairs believes Stephen Harper is to blame for the ongoing senate expense scandal. ((CBC))
"The blame all belongs at the feet of Stephen Harper. If he had appointed Pamela Wallin from Ontario and appointed Mike Duffy from Ontario — and he did have vacancies in that province — none of this would be a problem," she explained.

Wallin was appointed for Saskatchewan, and Duffy was appointed for Prince Edward Island, despite both maintaining residences in Ontario. If they had been appointed in Ontario, the two would never have had to file travel expense reports, which are now the subject of major controversy.

Carstairs said the controversy over Senate expenses is destroying the image of the Senate as an upper chamber of sober second thought.

"Oh, it destroys it, and perhaps that's the whole purpose," she said. "I don't know what the prime minister's agenda is."

Plett defends embattled senators

Meanwhile, current Manitoba Senator Don Plett says the three senators at the centre of the expense controversy should not lose their paycheques and medical benefits while the RCMP investigation into the matter is underway.

"I think we're jumping the gun," said Plett, a former Conservative Party president who was picked by Harper to join the Senate in 2009.

"These cases have all been referred to the RCMP by our internal economy committee, and I believe that the RCMP should be able to finish their investigation and we should not be taking away a person's livelihood."

Plett said if a Toronto police officer charged with second-degree murder can be suspended with pay while the case is before the courts, Wallin, Duffy and Patrick Brazeau should be allowed to keep their paycheques at this time.

"If they have done something wilfully wrong, should they be punished? Absolutely, they should be. But the punishment needs to fit the crime, and you don't destroy a life," he said.

Plett added that taking away the senators' paycheques would also deprive them of medical benefits, which he said would not be fair given Duffy's history of heart problems and Wallin's previous battle with cancer.


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