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Harper Not Swayed By Senators' Appeals

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STEPHEN HARPER
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he will not be swayed by the debate sparked by three embattled senators this week, fighting a proposed motion to suspend them without pay. (CP) | CP

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 larges against former Conservative senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin in order to take action.

"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."

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 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. 

A vote on the suspensions is expected by mid-week, just before the Conservatives begin a party convention in Calgary on Thursday. 

The RCMP is investigating the matter.

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