The Senate flexed its muscle Tuesday and in an unprecedented move tossed three of its members — Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau — out of the chamber, cutting their salaries and use of office resources.
Senators were allowed to vote separately with these results:
- On the motion to suspend Brazeau without pay, 50 yeas, 29 nays, 13 abstentions.
- On the motion to suspend Duffy without pay, 52 yeas, 28 nays, 11 abstentions.
- On the motion to suspend Wallin without pay, 52 yeas, 27 nays, 12 abstentions.
The suspensions are to last for the remainder of the session, likely until the next federal election in 2015.
It is the first time in Senate history a senator has been sanctioned in this way over expenses without being convicted of a criminal offence.
The Conservatives voted largely in favour of the motion for each senator, and the Liberals voted against, with some abstentions on both sides. As he indicated he would, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal voted against suspending Wallin, but also voted nay for Duffy and Brazeau. Wallin abstained on her own vote.
Wallin, following the vote, grabbed her purse and walked out of the chamber quickly, pausing briefly to speak to reporters in the Senate foyer. "I think it's an extremely sad day for democracy. If we can't expect the rule of law in Canada, then where on earth can we expect it?" she said, her voice catching.
Segal, the only Conservative to oppose the motions, told reporters, "I feel terrible," adding, "This will have a huge impact on their lives." Asked if he had any hope any of the senators would return to the Senate, he replied, "Zero," adding, "This is a virtual expulsion."
The government Senate leader, Claude Carignan, read a statement to reporters that was very similar to a statement issued moments later from the Prime Minister's Office. "These senators have been found to have claimed inappropriate expenses in our views, therefore they should not be collecting a public paycheque."
Carignan also accused "Trudeau's Liberals" of defending the status quo in the Senate by opposing the suspension motion. "The Liberals voted against accountability," he said.
James Cowan, the Liberal leader in the Senate, called the process a "sham" done for "purely political purposes." He confirmed that Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau asked Liberal senators to abstain from the suspension motion, rather than oppose it.
"It was his view, he didn't try to impose that view on Liberal senators," Cowan said.
In an earlier vote, the Senate turned down a motion from Cowan to refer to matter of the three senators to a special committee, rather than immediately suspending them. Two Conservatives, Segal and Nancy Ruth, supported the motion, which was defeated 54 to 36, with two abstentions.
Duffy condemns 'witch hunt'
In a written speech apparently intended as a final plea before the Senate voted on his future, Duffy listed his achievements as a senator and characterized efforts to suspend him and Brazeau and Wallin as a "witch hunt."
However, Duffy did not appear in the Senate chamber Tuesday afternoon when he may have had an opportunity to address the Senate chamber.
In "written remarks" emailed to CBC News on Tuesday and dated Nov. 5, Duffy also revealed he is scheduled for a "heart procedure" on Friday.
When CBC emailed Duffy's assistant to inquire why he did not deliver his remarks, Mary McQuaid replied, "Senator Duffy intended to give this statement (Tuesday) afternoon and hadn't realized debate closed last night."
Debate on the suspension motion ended past midnight after 10 hours of debate on Monday. Duffy was not present.
A line in the speech Duffy intended to deliver says, "I followed all the rules regarding expenses. I wasn't trying to rip off the government, the Senate or Canadians."
He took some shots at the Senate and the House of Commons, pointing out they're not courts. "Or if they are, they’re kangaroo courts undermined by partisan, political or personal conflicts of interest."
In his prepared remarks, Duffy also mentions the audit being conducted of all senators' expenses by Auditor General Michael Ferguson, saying the probe would go back to 2009. The auditor general has not said how far back his audit will go.
Lamenting the lack of due process, Duffy's text concludes saying, "Witch hunts are bad, our ancestors learned that after the trials in Salem, our parents and grandparents learned it from the slanders of the late Senator Joe McCarthy, my generation learned it from Watergate.
"Please stop this witch hunt and allow the police and the auditors to do their work." Duffy was not in the Senate Tuesday for the vote.
Debated for over 2 weeks
The issue has dominated the Senate for more than two weeks, often late into the night, but debating time has run out and the fate of the three senators' paycheques will be known by the end of the day.
The last senator to be suspended and stripped of his salary was Andrew Thompson in 1998. Thompson, a Liberal senator, had the worst attendance record in the Senate at the time, and only showed up once every session to avoid being thrown out. When he refused to appear at a special hearing about his attendance, the Senate suspended him without pay.
Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne, now serving a prison sentence for using Senate staff to work on his private property, was suspended, but with pay, while he was waiting for his trial. Once he was convicted, he resigned rather than risk being expelled from the Senate.
More than a hundred years ago, nine senators were disqualified for non-attendance. The last was in 1915, although disqualification means the Senate seat is declared vacant and is an even harsher penalty than suspension.
The motion for suspending Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau allows the three to keep their health and dental benefits as well as life insurance.
It's not clear how soon the three senators' paycheques would cease to arrive, and how quickly they would have to turn over their parliamentary passes and cellphones.
During the lengthy debate Monday on the suspension motion, Wallin, although present, did not rise to speak in her own defence. Brazeau arrived late in the evening and gave a passionate speech, singling out Conservative senators he thought had betrayed him, saying, "You're not throwing this Indian under the bus."
Earlier in the day, some Conservative senators indicated the votes left them with a heavy heart. Senator Linda Frum tweeted, "Difficult day ahead. There is no joy in sanctioning friends and colleagues. But protecting Senate's reputation & integrity priority #1."
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, Senator Marjory LeBreton said, "There is no joy in Mudville, this has been a terribly exhausting exercise, and it is a very sad state of affairs."