Inside Politics

NDP calls on Senate ethics officer to investigate Duffy payment

New Democrat ethics critic Charlie Angus is raising the possibility that Nigel Wright's "so called 'gift'" to embattled Conservative senator Mike Duffy could violate the Parliament of Canada Act. 

In a letter to Senate Ethics Officer Lyse Ricard, Angus argues that the "cash for repayment scheme" may contravene the section of the Act that deals with conflict of interest in the Senate:

16. (1) No member of the Senate shall receive or agree to receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, for services rendered or to be rendered to any person, either by the member or another person,

(a) in relation to any bill, proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate or the House of Commons or a committee of either House; or

(b) for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence any member of either House.

Offence and punishment

(2) Every member of the Senate who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of not less than one thousand dollars and not more than four thousand dollars.

Offering prohibited compensation

(3) Every person who gives, offers or promises to any member of the Senate any compensation for services described in subsection (1), rendered or to be rendered, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year and to a fine of not less than five hundred dollars and not more than two thousand dollars.

It's worth noting that, in contrast to the much-mulled over conflict of interest code for senators -- which amounts to little more than a set of voluntary guidelines run on an honour system, given the lack of independent power to penalize non-compliance -- the Parliament of Canada Act has the full force of law, complete with minimum and maximum financial penalties. 

Those found guilty of offering verboten payments to a senator even face the possibility of spending up to a year in jail -- real jail, mind you, not the parliamentary pokey.

Angus doesn't elaborate on how, exactly, the Wright-Duffy arrangement could constitute "prohibited compensation, and it's hard to fathom how the putative repayment of Duffy's expense-related debts could be viewed as "services rendered," even within the paramters of a "claim, controversy, charge, accusation ... or other matter before the Senate or ... [Senate] committee."

In any case, the Senate ethics officer will doubtless take the above reference into consideration as she continues with the review into the current controversy that is presumed, although not confirmed, to be underway.

Stay tuned!


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