5 senators who left the Conservative caucus under a cloud

In 2009 and 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named more than 35 new senators to the red chamber. Five years later, the Harper-picked group has been decidedly shaken up.
Senator Don Meredith left the Conservative caucus June 17 after a report of an alleged inappropriate sexual affair with a young woman. Meredith is just the latest Conservative senator to leave the caucus after allegations of wrongdoing. (CBC)

In 2009, Prime Minister Stephen Harper named 27 new senators to the red chamber in just under eight months. The next year, he added eight more.

Five years later, the Harper-picked group has been decidedly shaken up.

In the past two years, five senators appointed under Harper have left the Conservative caucus in the wake of scandals. Three were later suspended from the Senate without pay.

Here is a run-down of five senators who left the Conservative caucus:

1. Patrick Brazeau (Quebec)

Brazeau was suspended from the Senate in February 2013 after he was arrested in Gatineau, Que. and charged with assault and sexual assault. In April 2014, Brazeau was again arrested on charges related to assault and cocaine possession. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Brazeau also faced questions about expenses he incurred during his time in the Senate. Similarly to Duffy, Brazeau listed Maniwaki, Que. as his primary residence, despite the fact he lived in Gatineau at the time of his appointment.

In August 2013, the RCMP said they found Brazeau had committed "breach of trust" by filing inappropriate travel and housing expense claims. His trial on that charge is not yet underway.

2. Mike Duffy (P.E.I.)

Arguably the best-known of Harper's besieged senators, Duffy's troubles began in 2013 after questions arose surrounding his residency and expenses.

Duffy resided in Ottawa for more than three decades, and owned a cottage in P.E.I. when he was named to the Senate by Harper in 2008. But Duffy claimed P.E.I. as his primary residence, allowing him to claim expenses that included dozens of trips for himself and his wife.

When the media began to ask questions about a number of Duffy's expenses, his case was sent to private auditing firm Deloitte. Shortly afterwards, Duffy announced he and his wife would repay $90 000 in expenses.

It was later revealed that the $90,000 was provided by Harper's then chief of staff, Nigel Wright. A subsequent report saying that there was no justification for Duffy to claim Ottawa as his secondary residency was altered by two Conservative senators before being presented to the Senate.

Duffy is now standing trial on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery. He has pleaded not guilty. The case is currently playing out in court.

3. Pamela Wallin (Saskatchewan)

Along with Duffy and Brazeau, Wallin was suspended from the Senate in November 2013 for filing inappropriate expense claims.

The Mounties investigating Wallin's Senate travel expenses alleged she claimed 24 trips that bore no relation to her work as a senator. In some cases, investigators said Wallin filed expense claims twice, once with the Senate and once with another company.

Wallin repaid $154,191.29 to the Senate, but in a later interview with the CBC said she regretted paying back the expenses. Wallin has not been charged.

4. Don Meredith (Ontario)

Meredith was ousted from the Conservative caucus late on June 17 after the Toronto Star reported an 18-year-old woman alleged he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with her that began when she was 16. Thursday morning, it was announced the affair would be referred to the Senate ethics officer.

This is not the first time that Meredith has found himself in hot water. Earlier in June, the Senate confirmed it had initiated an independent workplace review of Meredith's office in February amid rumours of harassment and bullying in the workplace.

Meredith also faced questions about his expense claims in March after attending a national prayer breakfast in Washington D.C. — despite the fact that Senate leadership had warned him not to attend.

The senator had previously been criticized by members of his own caucus after he attended a Persian cultural event co-organized by the Iranian embassy. Meredith's appearance at the event appeared to contradict Harper's hard-line stance on Iran. The Prime Minister's Office later said Meredith was not there on government business.

Meredith's credentials have also been brought into question. Though he referred to himself as "Dr. Don Meredith" in official press releases, it was later revealed his doctorate came from a institution that was not accredited to grant degrees.

Meredith was appointed to the Senate on Harper's recommendation in 2010.

5. Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu (Quebec)

Boisvenu was left the Conservative caucus this month after learning he was being investigated by the RCMP following audits by the auditor general's office.

In 2014, Boisvenu found himself in hot water after living expense claims revealed he was dating his political assistant. He was eventually cleared of wrongdoing by the Senate ethics officer.

These five are not the only senators of both political stripes who have found themselves in trouble.

Another 29 senators, including three of the most powerful figures in the Senate, will be repaying expenses that were found to be inappropriate by the federal auditor general. Nine cases, including Boisvenu's, have been referred to the RCMP, although the Mounties can choose to investigate all 30.