Pamela Wallin attacks fellow senators in emotional speech

Pamela Wallin finally gets her say on the floor of the Senate, and uses the podium to take some shots at fellow senators.

Embattled senator tells colleagues, 'You will never break my spirit'

'You will never break my spirit': Wallin

10 years ago
Duration 4:50
Senator Pamela Wallin says she was a loyal Conservative stabbed in the back to please the party faithful, CBC's Terry Milewski reports

Pamela Wallin finally got her say on the floor of the Senate Wednesday, and used the podium to take some shots at fellow senators.

The Senate, after a lengthy debate, adjourned before a vote could be taken to suspend her, as well as Senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, without pay. Debate will resume Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, the last sitting day for the Senate this week.

Addressing the motion that would also cut her office use and benefits, Wallin pointed out that losing health benefits would be "a troubling prospect for a cancer survivor."

Wallin continued, saying she suspects Government Senate Leader Claude Carignan is taking orders from the Prime Minister's Office in the interests of appeasing public opinion that would like to abolish the Senate.

"The government, through Senator Carignan, has truly put the cart before the horse — the sentencing before the trial," she said.

Wallin, although her speech was not nearly as politically volatile as Duffy's a day earlier, didn't hesitate to name senators she considers betrayed her. Her voice shaking at times, she claimed she is the victim of 14 specific targeted leaks, which she thinks came mainly from senators Carolyn Stewart Olsen and David Tkachuk.

She said Stewart Olsen and Senator Marjory LeBreton could not bear the fact she is outspoken, or was critical of their leadership, adding, "They resented that — me being an activist senator." Stewart Olsen, Wallin said, "had her sights trained on me from the beginning."

'Backroom politics of the most odious kind'

Saying the proceedings against her are "backroom politics of the most odious kind," Wallin pointed out LeBreton had attacked her personally in a long speech in the Senate that terminated with LeBreton saying of Wallin, "This narcissism is the crux of the situation before us."

Wallin related that LeBreton and the prime minister's current chief of staff, Ray Novak, phoned her on on the Friday of the May long weekend, ordering her to resign, assuring her that this was the express wish of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"I was told again they were speaking for the prime minister, he wanted me gone," Wallin said.

Wallin continued, saying she negotiated an agreement with LeBreton and Novak, allowing her to tell the media she was voluntarily "recusing" herself from the Senate. Within 10 minutes, she said, LeBreton broke the deal, telling reporters Wallin had been asked to resign.

LeBreton rose as soon as Wallin was done, saying Wallin was in fact, a friend, and that she'd had only one dispute with her, not about her expenses, but to do with the Senate defence committee.

LeBreton may have been referring to a defence committee desire to study the issue of harassment within the RCMP, a move Wallin, as chair of the committee, strongly resisted.

Just before Wednesday's sitting, Stewart Olsen resigned from the Senate internal economy committee, saying she needs a change. She did not respond to Wallin's accusations.

Wallin ended her speech dramatically, saying "They hoped all this would force me to resign. But despite the clear, vindictive intent of this motion, you will never break my spirit."

Wallin's speech followed the explosive tirade Duffy let loose Tuesday as he aimed accusations not just at the Prime Minister's Office and some former Senate colleagues, but at Stephen Harper himself.

Wallin, like Duffy, is a former TV host and compelling speaker who used to be paid handsomely to speak in public.

Duffy, in a riveting speech, detailed conversations he claimed he had with Harper and PMO officials, as well LeBreton, who was the Conservative Senate leader at the time, about a deal he said he had struck with them to contritely pay back his expenses.

If he didn't comply, Duffy charged, he was threatened with expulsion from the Senate and the loss of his pay cheque.

Brazeau did address the Senate Tuesday about his case, saying, "If this is the Harper government's way of believing in democracy, we should all be very fearful. This is a complete joke, a farce."

Brazeau also gave notice of a motion of his own, asking to meet with the Senate internal economy committee in public, rather than behind closed doors as the committee usually operates, and discuss his housing claims. His motion might be debated Wednesday.

Spotlight on travel expenses

Wallin, like Brazeau and Duffy, was audited by the private accounting firm Deloitte. That report identified a pattern of Wallin flying to Toronto frequently, but using her Senate travel points meant to apply to trips between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, the area she represents in the Senate.

Senator Pamela Wallin is shown leaving Parliament Hill after attending a Senate hearing on Parliament in Ottawa on Tuesday. Today she had her chance to talk in the Senate. (Sean Kilpatrick, Canadian Press)

The Senate's internal economy committee voted to forward her report to the RCMP, but did not give Wallin an opportunity to defend herself before committee members. The committee also did not formally adopt the report, as it did in similar reports done on Duffy and Brazeau.

Wallin has already repaid approximately $140,000 in expenses, saying she made honest mistakes, although she called the Deloitte report "flawed and unfair."

In the debate Wednesday afternoon, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, a close friend of Wallin's, argued if the Senate suspends the three senators without "due process and the rule of law" a dangerous precedent would be set whereby a government majority of senators could get rid of any senator they disliked.

At one point, the government Senate leader Claude Carignan was asked if he had consulted either the Privy Council Office or the Prime Minister's Office about the motions to suspend Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.

Carignan, a lawyer, first cited solicitor-client privilege and refused to answer. He then replied he came up with the motions on his own, after seeking legal opinions from academics.

His response prompted jeers and hoots from other senators, the kind usually seen only in the House of  Commons, and not in the chamber of sober second thought.

The Liberal Senate leader, James Cowan, has proposed an alternate motion that would send the matter of the suspensions to a special committee. That motion has not yet been voted on.