It might surprise some, but cats occasionally gnaw on a bone, and I’ve been gnawing on this one for a while. Or maybe it has been gnawing at me.
I’ve long maintained that certain Senators shouldn’t be in the Senate, that they don’t meet the eligibility requirements set out in the Constitution, the requirement that a Senator shall be resident in the region he represents. This should It surprise no one who knows me, but things said in the Senate recently are making me wonder who else thinks that some Senators might not meet these requirements.
My gnawing took me back to Mike Duffy’s first speech in the Senate on October 22nd where he was defending himself from the threat of suspension. The emphasis is added by me.
The PMO piled on the pressure. Some honourable senators called me in P.E.I. One senator in particular left several particularly nasty and menacing messages: Do what the Prime Minister wants. Do it for the PM and for the good of the party. I continued to resist. Finally, the message from the PMO became: Do what we want or else.
And what was the “else”? He said the Conservative majority on the steering committee of the Board of Internal Economy, Senator Tkachuk and Senator Stewart Olsen, would issue a press release declaring me unqualified to sit in the Senate. However, if you do what we want, the Prime Minister will publicly confirm that you’re entitled to sit as a senator from P.E.I. and you won’t lose your seat. Tkachuk and Stewart Olsen are ready to make that press release now. I said: They don’t have the power to do that. He said: Agree to what we want right now or else.
This was from February, after Duffy had spoken with Harper and Wright about the allegations of his improper expenses, the one where Harper told him to pay the money back.
Mike resisted, saying he had done nothing wrong but in the end he relented, he said that he would pay the money back, but he didn’t have the $90,000.00 to do it and Nigel Wright proposed the gift.
Later in his same speech, Duffy told of how he was directed to leave the Harper Party Caucus. Again, the emphasis is mine.
Then, in May, after someone leaked selected excerpts of a confidential email I had sent to my lawyer in February, in which I voiced my opposition and concern about the deal, the PMO was back with a vengeance. I was called at home in Cavendish by Ray Novak, senior assistant to the Prime Minister. He had with him Senator LeBreton, Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator LeBreton was emphatic: The deal was off. If I didn’t resign from the Conservative caucus within 90 minutes, I’d be thrown out of the caucus immediately, without a meeting, without a vote. In addition, she said, if I didn’t quit the caucus immediately, I’d be sent to the Senate Ethics Committee, with orders from the leadership to throw me out of the Senate.
Marjory LeBreton offered her rebuttal a few days later. The emphasis is mine.
I said the following in order to assure him that sitting as an independent did not impact his position as a senator. “Mike,” I said, “this is the only option that can ensure your future livelihood.”
Twice Mike Duffy says he was pushed to do something under threat of losing his Senate Seat and Marjory LeBreton’s response is pretty much a nice way of saying “Do it or you’re out.” Pretty much the same thing isn’t it?
As we’ve seen lately, it is difficult to do much to a Senator. The Constitution only lists five reasons that a Senator should lose their seat.
31. The Place of a Senator shall become vacant in any of the following Cases:
• (1) If for Two consecutive Sessions of the Parliament he fails to give his Attendance in the Senate;
• (2) If he takes an Oath or makes a Declaration or Acknowledgment of Allegiance, Obedience, or Adherence to a Foreign Power, or does an Act whereby he becomes a Subject or Citizen, or entitled to the Rights or Privileges of a Subject or Citizen, of a Foreign Power;
• (3) If he is adjudged Bankrupt or Insolvent, or applies for the Benefit of any Law relating to Insolvent Debtors, or becomes a public Defaulter;
• (4) If he is attainted of Treason or convicted of Felony or of any infamous Crime;
• (5) If he ceases to be qualified in respect of Property or of Residence; provided, that a Senator shall not be deemed to have ceased to be qualified in respect of Residence by reason only of his residing at the Seat of the Government of Canada while holding an Office under that Government requiring his Presence there.
Of these options, only number 5 stands a chance of being grounds for Duffy’s removal from the Senate. The only problem is that he’s probably spent more time in PEI since he became a Senator than he had in the previous decade.
The only threat left is that Duffy was not resident in PEI prior to being named to the Senate.
Both Duffy and Wallin say that when they were named to the Senate, they both wanted assurances that their residency would not be an issue, and they both say they received those assurances. Duffy mentions a memo that he received that Marjory LeBreton claims does not exist, and then Mike Duffy tabled that same memo 4 days later…
When Stephen Harper appoints Senators, he has them agree to certain things. They have to agree to term limits, they have to agree to support his Senate “reforms” and I’m sure there are other things he has them agree to as well. From where I sit, it looks like not only did Harper have Duffy and Wallin agree to his terms, he put a leash on them as well. Do as we say or you’re out of the Senate, and their residency is the only tool that I can see in his tool kit.
Stephen Harper said something about the letter and intent of the law. Why does this not apply to him? He’s putting Senators in that don’t meet the requirements (Duffy, Wallin, Stewart Olsen). When Duffy came to him in February, he didn’t tell Duffy that he had broken the rules and should resign, he merely told him to pay back the money.
The PMO is front and centre on this as well. The PMO directed Duffy to pay back the money, the PMO called Duffy to have Senator LeBreton threaten him into leaving the Harper Party Caucus. The PMO wrote cheques to cover Duffy’s expenses and his legal fees!
Stephen Harper named Senator Claude Carignan Leader of the Government in the Senate and the first thing that Claude does is to hand out pitchforks and torches to the Harper Faithful in the Senate to go on a witch hunt for Duffy, Wallin, and Brazeau… how convenient.
When Mike Duffy made his speeches, he was warning the other Harper appointees in the Senate. He told them that Harper is a wonderful guy until he doesn’t need you, and then he’ll sic the PMO on you. Those Senators should take heed. The time to cut the strings binding you to the PMO and Harper is now.
Again I will quote Mike Duffy…
Are we independent senators or PMO puppets?
Cut those strings folks, cut those strings.