Harper not swayed by senators' appeals

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a Toronto radio station on Friday he will not be swayed by the appeals of three embattled senators who took turns mounting a defence in the Senate this week over a motion to suspend them without pay.

PM urges Senate to vote on motion to suspend senators without pay ahead of Calgary convention

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a radio station on Friday that statements made in the Senate this week by three former Conservative senators won't obscure the fact that they misused taxpayers funds. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he will not be swayed by the extraordinary debate heard in the Senate this week as three embattled senators took turns fighting for their livelihood, after the Senate presented a motion to suspend them without pay over thousands of dollars claimed in ineligible expenses.

In an interview with Newstalk 1010 on Friday, Harper said the Senate doesn't have to wait to find out if the RCMP will lay criminal charges against former Conservative senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin in order to take disciplinary action against them.

"There is absolutely no doubt what these three senators did… these senators, in some cases, have collected literally up to six figures in ineligible expenses and did so willingly over a long period of time."

"What I would say and what Canadians would say is if you did that in your work, your boss would not wait for you to be convicted of a crime. Your boss would say that and that alone requires that some action be taken in terms of your job."

The prime minister urged the Senate to vote on the motion as soon as possible, accusing the Liberals of stalling the vote.

"This was a motion moved by the majority of Conservative senators and I think the Senate should at least vote on it. Right now, the Liberals are just trying to delay a vote. Let the Senate vote on it," Harper said.

To ensure that senators vote on the motion sooner rather than later, the Conservative leadership in the Senate gave notice on Friday that it will seek closure.

A vote on the motion to seek closure won't come until Monday or Tuesday, pushing the vote on suspensions until mid-week, just before the Conservatives gather for their annual party convention in Calgary on Thursday.

Harper's comments come on the heels of concerns expressed by Conservatives who do not support the motion, believing due process must take place before blunt action is taken.

The debate over the Senate motion revealed a rift among Harper's caucus with Senator Don Plett and Alberta MP Peter Goldring leading the charge against the motion this week​.

On Thursday, the two Conservatives publicly stated they do not support the Senate motion to have the three senators suspended without pay.

Plett, a powerful voice in the party, said suspending the three senators and stripping them of income would set a precedent allowing the Senate to suspend any senator who is seen to be "an irritant."

Goldring told reporters he is lobbying Conservative senators to reject the motion he deems unconstitutional and is even considering appealing to the Governor General.

Another Conservative senator, Don Meredith, said he supports a Liberal Senate motion to have the matter sent to a committee for further study.

The Conservative dissenters made their views known a day after Harper said, in question period on Wednesday, he "fully" supported the Senate motion to have the three former Conservative senators suspended and stripped of their pay.

The prime minister reiterated his position during a radio interview on Friday saying "I think that's what people expect… when people abuse a position of trust at this level and over this time period and this clearly, that there will be appropriate action taken that frankly removes them from the public payroll."

Brazeau offered 'backroom deal'

All three senators had the opportunity to defend themselves before the Senate this week.

Brazeau told the Senate on Friday afternoon that he was offered a "backroom deal" by Claude Carignan, the government leader in the Senate, earlier in the day. 

The Senate would go easier on him if he were to apologize to Canadians and take responsibility for his actions, Brazeau told the Senate.

Carignan did not deny Brazeau's statement, saying he spoke to him "out of friendship" and suggested the penalty could be "lighter."

Carignan said it was an attempt to help Brazeau. "I regret he perceived it as an attack."

Wallin also mounted a defence against the Senate motion on Friday, calling on all senators for due process, charging that the majority Conservative senators in the Senate want her "head on a platter."

The senator from Saskatchewan told the Senate on Wednesday she was the victim of media leaks orchestrated by two other Conservative senators to discredit her.

Duffy told the Senate on Tuesday there was a Conservative scheme to have him removed from the upper chamber unless he went along with a plan to repay his Senate expenses, although he believed he had followed the rules. 

The prime minister maintains he knew nothing about the $90,000 cheque Nigel Wright, his former chief of staff, gave to Duffy to repay his ineligible expenses.

On Friday, Harper told the Toronto radio station "I think I had every right to know. I should have been told. I think I clearly should have been consulted, I was not."