In a surprise budget move, the Conservative government announced it will move to prevent senators and MPs from accruing pensionable time while suspended from Parliament.
The move would affect senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin, who were suspended without pay by their colleagues last fall after a Senate committee found each had claimed tens of thousands of dollars in expenses to which they were not entitled.
The move to suspend them was controversial and even some Conservative senators opposed it, arguing the suspensions were prejudicial as they implied guilt even though none of the three had been convicted of – or even charged with – a crime.
The RCMP has alleged in court filings that the senators committed fraud and breach of trust in relation to their expenses. Brazeau has since been charged, along with retired former Liberal senator Mac Harb.
The government pressed ahead with the suspensions, claiming the three senators would have been fired from the shop floor, had they been accused of lifting cash from a private-sector till.
But the government’s suspension plan did not account for the pensions each senator would be eligible to collect after having accrued six years in office.
Although the suspensions forced Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau out of the Senate chamber and off the Hill, they technically still remained officially senators, accruing pensionable time towards their six-year threshold to earn a pension.
Tuesday, the government promised to close that loophole.
“The actions of parliamentarians should be based on integrity, trust and respect for taxpayers’ dollars,” the budget plan reads.
“Accordingly, the government will introduce legislation to prohibit members of the Senate and the House of Commons from accruing pensionable service as a result of having been suspended from Parliament through a majority vote by their peers.”
Government officials say the new rules will not apply retroactively, but once passed will apply to all senators currently suspended.