Politics

Senator Patrick Brazeau blames Tory majority in Senate for his expense woes

In his first news conference since the Crown dropped fraud and breach of trust charges against him, Senator Patrick Brazeau said his suspension from the Senate over his expense claims was politically motivated.

'What happened to me was unjust and somebody needs to be held accountable,' senator says

Senator Patrick Brazeau discusses his return to the Senate and tells Stephen Harper he's free to resign now that Brazeau's fraud charges have been dropped. 1:27

In his first news conference since the Crown dropped fraud and breach of trust charges against him, Senator Patrick Brazeau said his suspension from the Senate over his expense claims was politically motivated.

The senator said it was down to the "Conservative-led majority in the Senate. Plain and simple, it was politics, it wasn't administrative, it was politics."

Brazeau, himself a Tory appointee, pointed out that since he was cleared by the Deloitte audit of his expense claims in the Senate, and the charges of fraud and breach of trust were eventually dropped by the Crown, it should be clear to all Canadians that he did nothing wrong. 

"Why is it that the Senate, that had a Conservative majority at the time of my suspension, decided differently?" Brazeau asked in French.  "I paid a hefty price for that, so someone has to be accountable for the answers to my questions, because there will be those questions coming in future."

Brazeau said that he went almost three years without being paid because of the accusations looming over him, and he and his lawyers were considering "all options" with respect to getting some or all of those lost wages back. 

"Which employer across the country garnishes 100 per cent of somebody's salary for something that the Senate claims that I owed back?" Brazeau asked reporters gathered in his Senate office today. "What happened to me was unjust and somebody needs to be held accountable," 

Speaking to CBC News Network's Power & Politics, the senator said he was "muzzled" for the last three years, but now he wants answers for how he was treated. He vowed to work hard to "clean up" the Senate and prove it is an institution that can function properly for Canadians. 

"It's not easy having undergone everything that I went through, and it should never happen to anybody in this country, and it was all because of politics," he told host Rosemary Barton.

Senator Patrick Brazeau discusses his return to the Senate almost three years after being suspended and charged with fraud. 6:17

Brazeau also spoke about his legal and personal problems since the expense scandal in the Senate began, saying that he did make some bad decisions but that he was under a great deal of stress related to the "false accusations" levied against him.

"As you all know, last January, I tried to take my own life, and it wasn't the first time that I tried," Brazeau said. It was "the first time that it was reported, and hit the airwaves, but it wasn't the first time that I tried to commit suicide, but that was more a consequence of the last three years," he said. "I'm just glad I'm still here."

Brazeau became emotional as he later told Barton that the January attempt made him see the light. He said he does not think he would have survived had it not been for the support of his family, friends and, in particular, his father.

Brazeau said his news conference was being held, in part, to "celebrate" his return to work, which he described as a "happy moment for him and his family," promising that now is the time for him to move on and get back to the work that he loves.

The road forward 

Looking back at his short Senate career, Brazeau said that if there was one thing he could change about the way he conducted himself in the early days of his appointment, it would to be less partisan. It is something he will have the opportunity to practise now that he is an independent senator.

Brazeau also mentioned that he voted Liberal in the last election and that since he has become head of government Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "has been doing a pretty decent job thus far."

Brazeau said he was looking forward to working on issues that are important to him including mental health and suicide prevention. 

"I'm willing to work with anybody who will work with me on the issues that I intend work on, I have no problems with that," he said. 

Legal woes remain

Brazeau and three other senators were initially singled out by the Senate for questionable expense claims.

Brazeau was charged with fraud and breach of trust but those charges were withdrawn by the Crown Wednesday, clearing him to return to his seat in the Senate.

Now that the expenses inquiry is behind him and the charges have been dropped, the senator told Barton that he did not feel entirely vindicated, and would not until someone was held accountable for the way he was treated. 

While his fraud and breach of trust charges were dropped Wednesday, it won't be the end of Brazeau's legal woes. He still must return to court Oct. 26 to answer a charge of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test for an incident that took place April 3.

Brazeau has pleaded not guilty to that charge. 

After receiving notification that the charges had been dropped, Brazeau took a shot at former prime minister Stephen Harper on Twitter, saying, "I guess Harper is free to resign. He won't have to testify."

That may have been a reference to the fact that as long as Harper remains a member of Parliament he can invoke parliamentary privilege to avoid testifying at a criminal trial.

Senator Pamela Wallin's expenses were the subject of a "thorough investigation," after which RCMP decided they would not press charges.

Senator Mike Duffy was charged with 31 offences relating to his expenses. He went to trial and was cleared of all charges in April.

Retired senator Mac Harb was also charged, but those charges were also withdrawn by the Crown.

'I don't want to stand here and be a victim,' says Brazeau as he returns to the Senate. 9:33