Motion Speech Senator Jane Cordy October 29th, 2013
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I have listened to the speeches in the Senate over the past week from Senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin and other senators who have spoken. I have read countless emails on the subject sent to me by many Canadians.
Honourable senators, I'm sure that when many of you were home over the summer, everywhere you went, people were talking about senators' misuse of taxpayers' money. When I spent my summer in beautiful Nova Scotia, I heard over and over again from Canadians who are very angry about what has been referred to as "the Senate scandal." I heard about the expenses of senators while I attended meetings in my church, in my neighbourhood, even at family gatherings.
People are justifiably angry. I am angry at the thought that taxpayers' money may have been spent irresponsibly.
In the last Parliamentary session when evidence surfaced that there were some irregularities with some senators' expenses, the Internal Economy Committee did what I believe was due diligence and concluded that the appropriate action was to call in private auditors to investigate the allegations against Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin.
Upon hearing the findings of the private auditors, it was deemed necessary to refer the cases over to the RCMP for them to determine if any criminal activity was involved. That is what should have happened, and it did happen.
Now I have to ask why these three motions were introduced at a time when the RCMP has yet to complete their investigation. Why does there seem to be an attempt to interfere with an ongoing investigation? As a member of the Internal Economy Committee, I believe that sending those files to the RCMP was the right thing to do. The RCMP are best equipped to determine who knew what, when they knew it, and what they did when they found out.
I am sure the RCMP investigation can follow the trail of emails that have been referred to in the chamber by Senator Duffy. An RCMP investigation is the right course of action here to address the allegations of PMO cover-ups and who, if anyone, orchestrated these cover-ups.
Passing these motions at this time before the RCMP have a chance to complete their findings could potentially interfere with the RCMP's work.
The premature introduction of these three motions to expel Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin also sets a dangerous precedent, as they ignore a senator's right to due process. These motions essentially predetermine judgment and hand down punishment before the evidence has been weighed.
This should be of concern to every senator in this chamber and indeed to every Canadian, and has compelled me to speak today.
I believe that we, as senators, have a responsibility to ensure not only that Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin but all senators in this chamber and all Canadians, for that matter, receive due process.
Many uncertainties remain in the cases of Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin that require answers before we, as senators, can make a well-informed and just decision. We should have these answers before considering a motion to expel our colleagues.
Indeed, the speeches we have heard have left us with even more questions about what happened behind closed doors, why the rush to judgment, why the possible interference in the RCMP investigation, which is under way.
We know in Senator Wallin's case that the Prime Minister stated in the other place that he had looked at her expenses and that they were fine. Now the same Prime Minister has removed her from the Conservative caucus and is pushing to have Senator Wallin expelled from the Senate entirely.
We also have a lot of questions surrounding the payment of $90,000 to Senator Duffy. I guess I should say that we also have questions about the two payments made to Senator Duffy.
Prime Minister Harper stated in the spring that Nigel Wright acted alone. Now the Prime Minister says a few people knew about the cheque. It now appears that others in the Prime Minister's Office, as many as 13, were aware of what was happening and the questions remain about what Prime Minister Harper knew.
He must have known that Senator Duffy's expenses were repaid. Did he not ask anyone? Or was it a case of wilful blindness? Don't ask, don't tell.
First, Nigel Wright resigned and the Prime Minister accepted his resignation. Now the Prime Minister tells us that he fired Mr. Wright. Senator Duffy did say in this chamber that he met with Nigel Wright and the Prime Minister on February 13 to discuss his expenses. He also stated that he received a cheque for his legal expenses.
I believe that passing these motions at this time will only hamper the RCMP's investigation. The accused senators — in fact, all senators in this chamber and all Canadians — deserve answers to all the questions and allegations raised over the past few months. These motions only appear designed to interfere with the efforts of the RCMP to provide Canadians with answers to these serious questions of irresponsible spending and possible PMO involvement. Canadians deserve answers.
I would like to quote from some emails that I have received. I've received lots of emails from concerned Canadians and only a very few agree with Senator Carignan's motion. The rest of the emails speak of the lack of due process and the dangerous precedent this sets. What is interesting about these emails is that usually, when we get hundreds of emails from Canadians, they are mass emails that are exactly the same, but these emails that I have received are all individual. They are all written by individual Canadians and, while they have the same message, they are all different. I received them from people who rarely, if ever, have written to a senator before.
This is an email that I received yesterday.
I've been paying close attention to the "scandal" that has seized the upper chamber and must confess that I am dismayed at the current proposal to suspend Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin without due process. Although I do not condone their alleged improprieties for one second, I have even more serious concerns about finding them guilty solely on the basis of reasonable cause and at the behest of the Prime Minister.
Surely you have a moral obligation, if not a legal requirement, to remain independent from blatant political interference and to demonstrate a sense of wisdom borne from sober second reflection in the manner in which you proceed.
Another email that I received stated:
Let me state upfront that I have no opinion on the guilt or innocence of Senators Brazeau, Duffy or Wallin. What I do know is that the current process has all the trappings of a kangaroo court rather than an appropriate, thoughtful and fair determination of whether indeed these individuals broke any rules.
Let me further point out that, according to my reading of the Canadian Constitution, these individuals can only be disqualified from the Senate for very specific reasons, including most relevantly being convicted of a crime. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that even if these senators are guilty of misspending taxpayers' dollars, it is not clear to me that they would be charged with a crime, let alone convicted. So we have a situation where the Senate is considering essentially pre-empting Canada's criminal justice system.
As a proud Canadian, I am disgusted by this spectacle that one might expect to see from a tinpot dictatorship, not from the country I was born and raised in.
Another email said:
Here is a note from an old retired person in rural Nova Scotia. I do not belong to any party. I feel very strongly that the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by due process is the cornerstone of all our rights and freedoms.
Another email says:
Innocent until proven guilty is one of the most fundamental of our individual rights. The motion to suspend several senators without due process contravenes that principle.
Another email from a Canadian states:
I ask you to vote "no" to the motion to suspend without pay and benefits Senators Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau. You can't punish someone who hasn't been convicted of anything in Canada. The verdict still comes before the sentence.
Everyone knows, even those who hate the Senate and want to beat up on senators just because, that Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau are convenient scapegoats for a government that wants to rid itself of the air of corruption caused by the election fraud scandals, the robo-calls affair and, yes, by the allegations of abuse of Senate funds.
Our country was founded on the principles of peace, order and good government. A "yes" vote would deepen the sense many of us have that political expediency and a preference for hardball politics have made those principles obsolete.
Another Canadian wrote:
I am saddened by the damage to our democratic institution by the poisonous partisanship being practised by our current Prime Minister and his minions. Please don't let partisanship dictate your vote. Do not suspend the three senators. Let the judicial system handle any wrongdoing.
Another email written by a Nova Scotian to all Nova Scotia senators states:
After hearing the events of today in the Senate, I hope the Senate will truly be a chamber of sober second and independent thought. While the expense scandal needs to be addressed in an accountable manner, the current motion before the Senate is not getting at the core issues and needs to be reflected upon and re-thought.
As a Nova Scotian, I will be watching to see what you as my senators will do over the next few days to insert some sensibility as well as accountability into the actions to be taken, and that we as citizens finally get some honest answers and explanations as to what is happening. I am disturbed at how our Canadian democracy is being hijacked and look to the Senate to steer it back to some honesty and integrity.
Another Canadian wrote:
I want to hear all of the story of Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau, et cetera. If you vote against hearing the whole story, you are voting yourselves out of relevance and deserve to go.
Another Canadian wrote:
To any senator currently sitting,
After watching the revelations exposed today, I sincerely hope you vote not to expel any senator without a public hearing, and please do not vote because of loyalty to a particular party or a leader. Vote for facts and do the honest and honourable thing.
Another email addressed to senators of Nova Scotia states:
As a resident of the province you've all been appointed to represent, I am sending this note to register my views on the current situation involving Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau. I have no real sympathy for those particular senators, because they all should have known better. Under no circumstances, however, should it be possible for any member of Parliament to be suspended from Parliament in the manner being pursued by the Conservative Party of Canada. These actions are being taken not in the best interest of Canadians, but to provide political cover to the sitting government and the Prime Minister.
Honourable senators, I'm now going to read to you from an article written by Tom Flanagan. Now, I never thought I would be standing in the Senate Chamber reading an article by Tom Flanagan.
Honourable senators, I certainly didn't think that I would be agreeing with the words of Tom Flanagan.
I will read to you from this article:
... for this resolution is troubling.
First, it violates due process and natural justice, because it would impose severe penalties—loss of income and devastating harm to reputation—before conclusion of the RCMP and Deloitte investigations that the Senate itself has asked for. "Sentence first, verdict afterwards," said the Red Queen in the trial of the allegedly tart-stealing Knave of Hearts. It would indeed take the genius of Lewis Carroll to do justice to what's now happening in the Senate.
But it's not just unfair, it's dangerous to start suspending Members of Parliament, whether they're elected or appointed. The usual penalty for being politically inconvenient is removal from caucus, which makes sense because no one has a right to belong to a party grouping. But long-term suspension—expulsion, in effect—from the legislative body is something we expect to see in an authoritarian system, not a democracy. Pay attention, elected MPs. If it can happen to senators, it can happen to you.
Honourable senators, while I understand and identify with the anger and frustration of Canadians, I believe that a decision to expel Senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin should not be taken lightly. It should not be made for political reasons to distract the public, and we should certainly not trample on the rights of Canadians because Mr. Harper wants a problem to go away. If we in the Senate of Canada don't stand up for the rights of others, who will be left to stand up for the rights of Canadians?
The Internal Economy Committee determined that the senators must pay back money to the taxpayers. The committee also brought in the RCMP. If charges are laid, and if any or all of the three senators named in the motions are found guilty of breaking the law, they will face legal consequences, which may include expulsion from the Senate. However, until that time comes, why are we delivering sentences before we have the results of the RCMP investigation and before the verdict is in? I believe the Senate has the responsibility to be fair and just. We owe all Canadians —
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable Senator Cordy, I would like to remind you that your 15-minute speaking time is up. Are you prepared to ask the chamber for some more time?
Senator Cordy: I just need one more minute.
Senator Cordy: Honourable senators, I believe that the Senate has the responsibility to be fair and just. We owe all Canadians, and that includes Senators Wallin, Duffy and Brazeau, due process, presumption of innocence and the rule of law. Thank you.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable Senator Jaffer, on debate?
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Will Senator Cordy take a question?
Senator Cordy: Yes, I will.
The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Jaffer.
Senator Jaffer: Senator Cordy has for a very long time been a member of the Internal Economy Committee and was certainly involved in discussions on these three senators. Can she tell us why she took the steps she took, first, in asking them to pay back the money that they owed, and then to refer this to the RCMP? Did she think that that was enough punishment?
Senator Cordy: I thank the honourable senator for that question. We've certainly heard discussion in the chamber over the past week that perhaps Internal Economy didn't act properly. I happen to think that Internal Economy followed a process. I didn't always agree. I didn't agree when I believed that Senator Duffy's report was being whitewashed. However, I did agree with the process that took place at Internal Economy. I do believe that it was proper that when there were allegations of abuse of misspending by senators that the independent auditors were brought in. When we heard the reports of the independent auditors, I thought it was the right thing to do to bring in the RCMP.
I'm not a lawyer; I'm not a judge; I'm not a member of the RCMP. I think that once it reaches the point where you wonder whether or not the law has been broken, it is important that the RCMP be brought in to investigate to see whether or not the law has been broken. So, yes, I think that the committee has done the right thing.
I certainly don't agree with the motions brought forward by Senator Carignan that bring in a sentence before the RCMP investigation has been completed. We are finding people guilty before we have all the evidence of the RCMP to determine whether or not the law has been broken.
That's an excellent question. Thank you.
Senator Jaffer: May I ask another question?
Senator Cordy: Yes.
Senator Jaffer: Senator Cordy has been very involved; in fact she and members of Internal Economy have spent a lot of their summer working on these reports. Do I understand correctly that two reports were adopted by the Senate and one report on Senator Wallin remains to be adopted?
Senator Cordy: That is absolutely correct. Two reports, Senator Duffy's and Senator Brazeau's have been brought in to the Senate. They certainly were brought forward for discussion and placed on the Order Paper. Senator Wallin's report by the independent auditing company was brought to the committee in September. Parliament was prorogued at that time, so while it was presented to the Senate and deemed to be presented. In fact it was not brought forward for discussion at the Senate. It has never appeared on the Order Paper of the Senate.
Hon. Pierre Claude Nolin: The honourable senator was referring to Internal Economy Committee. One of the questions that Senator Segal keeps asking is this question of retroactivity. At the meeting of August 12, which Senator Cordy attended, that question was raised by Senator Segal. I will read from the transcript that was given to us yesterday. The question from Senator Segal was:
My question is: Do you not think there is, perhaps unwittingly, a core unfairness to a retroactive assessment of activities which existed under one regime based on the rules that were just brought into effect at the end of 2012 or the beginning of 2013?
The answer from Mr. Stewart, a representative from Deloitte, is quite revealing:
It is our understanding that the underlying principles of the expense policy have not changed and that Appendix A provided guidance, some specific examples of the application of that policy.
We have used that, to some extent, in our analysis going backwards because, as I say, it is our understanding, with information from Senate staff, that the underlying policies have not changed, that policy principles have not changed.
I would point out also, if you go through Schedule 2, there are a number of expense claims that do not rely on the retroactive application of Appendix A, so it is not solely because of Appendix A that we have come to the conclusions that we have.
Senator Cordy was there. Does she recall that the discussion and the question about retroactivity that was raised by Senator Segal and, by the way, raised also by Senator White at the end of the meeting got nowhere? All the senators accepted the answer from Mr. Stewart and his colleague and it went through perfectly. Why?
Senator Cordy: I thank Senator Nolin. That is actually an excellent question.
There was no changing of the rules. It was a clarification of the rules, with specific examples laid out as to what would fall under the rules. The only rules that changed were brought in as a result of expense claims that we looked at. The number of what we would call "other trips" that a senator can make would be limited; that is, trips other than trips between Ottawa and your primary residence. That was new, because before that there was no limit on "other trips."
There was also a change in how many days a senator could spend in Ottawa if the Senate wasn't sitting, if there was no caucus meeting taking place, or if no committee meeting was taking place. I believe that a senator can now spend no more than 20 days in Ottawa unless one of those three things is happening. Other than that, I believe, as a member of the Internal Economy Committee, that changes were simply a clarification of existing rules.