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Senate to give RCMP emails of senators in Wright-Duffy probe

Speaker of the Senate Noël Kinsella told reporters during an unprecedented press conference inside the upper chamber that the Senate will hand over all emails from four Conservative senators as requested by the RCMP.

Kinsella says Senate will decide whether to call Irving Gerstein to testify

Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella, who last week was named chair of the committee handling audits of senators' expenses, took a wide range of questions from reporters in the red chamber Monday. (Canadian Press)

Senate Speaker Noël Kinsella held an unprecedented press conference inside the upper chamber this morning in an effort to mitigate the harm the Senate expenses scandal has had on the institution.

Kinsella said it wasn't just for the sake of appearances but because "there has to be public trust" in the work done by members of the Senate.

The Speaker confirmed the Senate will turn over all email communications of Conservative senators Mike Duffy, Marjory LeBreton, Carolyn Stewart Olsen and David Tkachuk as requested by the RCMP in a document called an information to obtain a production order, filed in court on Nov. 15.

Kinsella was accompanied by the clerk of the Senate Gary O'Brien, who told reporters "we have all of their emails."

The Senate has 30 days to turn over the emails from the date the ITO was filed in court by the RCMP.

"They will get them all within the 30 days," Kinsella said.

The Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm that provides advice and support to the prime minister and his cabinet, made it known Sunday evening that emails belonging to Benjamin Perrin, the former special adviser and legal counsel to the prime minister, were not deleted as was previously thought.

The PCO has informed the RCMP it will turn over all of those emails immediately.

Perrin was named in court documents related to a secret deal between Nigel Wright, the former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and Duffy.

Calling Gerstein to testify

The Senate Speaker said his decision to invite the media into the upper chamber was precipitated by his appointment last week as chair of the Senate internal economy committee that has been looking into senators' expenses, which led to the suspension last month of senators Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, and Pamela Wallin.

The decision to call Conservative Senator Irving Gerstein and Deloitte partner Michael Runia to testify about their roles in the audit of Duffy's expenses is up to senators on the internal economy committee and the Senate as a whole, Kinsella told reporters.​

On Tuesday, Kinsella will oversee a vote on a Liberal motion to instruct the Senate internal economy committee to hear what Runia has to say about the Duffy audit report.

Gary Timm, one of the partners at Deloitte who oversaw Duffy's audit, testified last Thursday that Runia had in fact called him midway through the investigation to find out how much Duffy would likely end up owing.

Deloitte's role in Duffy's audit has been the subject of controversy since documents filed in court by the RCMP put the spotlight on alleged communications between Gerstein and Runia.

Kinsella, who was appointed to the Senate in 1990 by former prime minister Brian Mulroney, conceded the Senate expenses scandal has been personally embarrassing for him.

"Yes, I'm not happy about it," he told reporters.​

Kinsella 'extremely concerned'

The RCMP have alleged in the court documents filed on Nov. 15 that the senior ranks of the Prime Minister's Office directed Conservative senators to alter the final Senate audit report into Duffy's ineligible expenses.​

The Speaker dismissed the idea that the Senate is under instruction from the PMO, saying "fair question, but they don't have me on speed dial."

Although he rejected the suggestion that the executive branches of government were telling the legislative branches what to do, he did say he was "extremely concerned."

Kinsella said that despite the negative attention on the Senate, there are lessons to be learned so "these kinds of things don't happen."

The Speaker said that the rules surrounding the residency of senators were not "sufficiently clear" and clarifying them has to be "a priority."

Kinsella appeared to suggest the Senate may also wish to clarify the rules surrounding the suspension of senators.

"We did not have a manual to follow," Kinsella said of the debate to suspend without pay the senators Duffy, Brazeau, and Wallin.

Suspending them without pay was a "very difficult" conclusion to come to, Kinsella said, adding that it may have been the "most difficult" debate in his time as a senator.

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