Senators call for new blood on committee dealing with audit fallout
Key figures in Duffy affair shouldn't handle response to auditor general's report, some senators say
A group of senators, including a Conservative, say senators David Tkachuk and Marjory LeBreton should step down from a committee that will deal with the fall-out of the Auditor General's report into Senate expenses.
The senators, who spoke to CBC News on the condition of anonymity, say Tkachuk and LeBreton should not remain on the Senate's internal economy committee given their involvement in the alleged mishandling of the Mike Duffy affair.
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Tkachuk was the chair of the committee and Lebreton the government leader in the Senate when the Duffy scandal unfolded in 2013. Both senators are still members of the committee. Duffy is currently on trial for 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to his Senate expenses and a $90,000 payment to cover them.
The senators say, given what happened two years ago, they are not comfortable allowing Tkachuk and Lebreton to handle the next group of senators with problematic expenses.
CBC News recently reported the auditor general's report is expected to show a troublesome pattern of expense claims for 5 to 10 senators. That report is coming in June.
Named in Duffy court documents
The senators say they are also concerned about recently released RCMP court documents that suggest Tkachuk and LeBreton were in close contact with the Prime Minister's Office while they were handling the Duffy case.
The documents, released last week, detail efforts in early 2013 by the PMO, Tkachuk and LeBreton to contain the fallout of the expense scandal and to protect Duffy.
The RCMP cited a February, 2013 email from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, that said he had been on the phone with Duffy, Tkachuk and LeBreton.
According to Wright's email, the plan was to issue a press release to announce that the expense cases of now retired senator Mac Harb, now suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau and Duffy would go to external auditors, but also send a separate release about getting legal advice on Duffy's primary residence.
"A purpose of this is to put Mike [Duffy] in a different bucket and prevent him from going squirrelly in a bunch of weekend panel shows," Wright wrote to other PMO staffers.
Wright goes on to say, "Mike is pleased with this so it will give us a little bit of time if David [Tkachuk] can pull it off..." adding "... Marjory [LeBreton] is fully on-board."
Both Tkachuk and Lebreton were surprised that there were calls for their removal from the committee.
"I am comfortable with my position now on the committee and then as chair of committee and the actions I took," Tkachuk told CBC News Thursday.
Lebreton said, "I would think I'd be the ideal person to be sitting on [the committee of] internal economy."
Sources tell CBC News that some in the Senate are angry with LeBreton for calling in the auditor general in the first place, back on June 3, 2013 at the height of expense scandal.
But Claude Carignan, the current government leader in the Senate, defended the process and Tkachuk and Lebreton.
"For those who have an issue, we already said, I think, that we will have an arbitration process by an independent arbitrator," Carignan told CBC News.
However, the final decision on what happens to the senators who have expense issues in the auditor general's report will land in the lap of the senators sitting on the internal economy committee.
The Parliament of Canada Act states the committee has exclusive authority to determine whether senator's expense