CALGARY - Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives have forgotten their roots and risk the wrath of dissatisfied voters in the next election.
Trudeau was in Calgary on Wednesday to speak to oil executives and attend an evening rally with party supporters.
He never mentioned the words Mike Duffy or the Senate during his speech at the Calgary Petroleum Club, but he did suggest to reporters afterward that the possible repercussions of the Senate scandal are obvious.
"This government has really grown out of touch with Canadians and very arrogant," Trudeau said.
"As we know, arrogant and out of touch is the death knell for any government seen to be taking for granted its support and position."
He said the Conservatives, who adopted a number of policies from the old Reform Party of Canada, have forgotten what they were fighting for when they were elected.
"People came to power and came to Ottawa, saying we need a level of accountability and transparence and grassroots engagement, (but) this government has now become that which it fought against."
Trudeau noted that the prime minister is likely to be involved in little more than "damage control" at this weekend's Conservative party national policy convention in Calgary.
A motion to suspend three disgraced Conservative senators is poised to drag on into next week, despite a last-ditch effort to make the move more palatable within the governing party's own ranks.
That means the Senate expense scandal cloud will hang over the entire convention.
The government leadership in the Senate is proposing a last-minute amendment to the proposed suspensions, without pay, of senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, that would allow the trio to keep their medical benefits.
However, Sen. Hugh Segal — leader of a move by some Conservatives against the suspensions — says the proposal doesn't change the fact that the three are being sentenced without a fair hearing or charges, much less convictions.
The Conservative Senate leadership had hoped to limit debate on the suspension motions and force a vote before the Tory convention.
Trudeau said Canadians would rather see government deal with more important issues, such as health care or the economy.
"I'm troubled that the government in both the House and the Senate seems to have ground to a halt and it's not actually dealing with anything other than damage control on a scandal."
There need to be some changes made to the Senate, Trudeau suggested, but he stopped short of calling for a major overhaul.
"There's no question that the status quo in the Senate is no longer acceptable when Mr. Harper chooses senators like Ms. Wallin, Mr. Brazeau and Mr. Duffy and then a few years later has to attack them as completely unqualified," he said.
"We see there is an innate contradiction in the kind of house of sober second thought that we're supposed to have."
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper, question period, Feb. 13
"In terms of Sen. Wallin, I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time. For instance, last year Sen. Wallin spent almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate. The costs are to travel to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian would do."
Wallin speaking Wednesday in her own defence
"By throwing a member of this Senate under the bus, finding her guilty without a fair hearing such as any other Canadian could expect — a right guaranteed us by the charter — to proceed without the evidence having been adduced and considered on which the charge in the motion is based, is a fundamental affront to Canadian democracy and makes a mockery of this chamber. This charade is supposedly about preserving the reputation of this place, but the real intent is to remove a perceived liability — namely, me."
Harper on Wallin's expenses, question period, Feb. 14
"The senator and all other senators and members of the House are fully prepared and committed to have an examination of expenses to ensure that they are appropriate. That is the commitment the government has made in both chambers, a commitment we will keep."
Harper in question period on May 28 on when he learned that former chief of staff Nigel Wright personally wrote a $90,000 cheque to cover Sen. Mike Duffy's expenses
"Mr. Speaker, I have been very clear on this question. This matter came to my attention two weeks ago, after speculation appeared in the media. On Wednesday, May 15, I was told about it. At that very moment, I demanded that my office ensure that the public was informed, and it was informed appropriately."
Duffy in the Senate on Oct. 22
"I made one last effort. I said: 'I don't believe I owe anything, and besides which, I don't have $90,000.' 'Don't worry,' Nigel said. 'I'll write the cheque.'"
Harper in question period, May 28
"As I have said repeatedly, my first knowledge of this was on the date and at the time indicated. Prior to that point in time, it was my understanding that Mr. Duffy had paid back his own expenses."
Harper in question period, May 28
"If the leader of the NDP is suggesting I had any information to the contrary from Mr. Wright prior to this, that is completely false. I learned of this on May 15 and immediately made this information public, as I have said many times."
Harper in question period, June 4
"Mr. Speaker, that information was already made public on Feb. 13, and I have been very clear about this. Mr. Duffy approached me after a caucus meeting to discuss this matter. From the beginning, my position has been clear: any inappropriate expenses should be refunded to taxpayers by the senators concerned."
Duffy in his Oct. 22 Senate speech
"I've violated no laws, I've followed the rules."
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair in question period June 4
"Mr. Speaker, why then did the Prime Minister, last week, deny instructing any members of his personnel to settle the Mike Duffy matter when he gave that order with that personnel present in the room at a caucus meeting in February of this year?"
Harper, in reply to Mulcair in question period June 4
"Mr. Speaker, it was my view from the beginning that any inappropriate expenses by any senator should be repaid by the senator, not by somebody else. That was very clear. Those are the facts obviously before us. As I say, my statements on this matter have been very clear and very consistent."
Harper in question period June 5 explaining his meeting with Duffy
"Mr. Duffy was seeking clarification on remarks I had made to this effect in caucus and I was adamant that any inappropriate expenses had to be reimbursed by him."
Duffy in the Senate Oct. 22
"So after caucus on Feb. 13 of this year, I met the prime minister and Nigel Wright, just the three of us. I said that despite the smear in the papers, I had not broken the rules, but the prime minister wasn't interested in explanations or the truth. It's not about what you did; it's about the perception of what you did that has been created in the media."
Harper in question period Oct. 23, referring to Duffy's account of the Feb. 13 meeting
"No, Mr. Speaker I absolutely did not say that."
Duffy to the Senate on Oct. 22
"I argued: I'm just following the rules like all of the others. But it didn't work. I was ordered by the prime minister: Pay the money back, end of discussion. Nigel Wright was present throughout, just the three of us."
Harper in question period on June 5
"I have made it very clear what my views were to all my staff and to our caucus. We expect inappropriate expenses to be reimbursed and I would expect they would be reimbursed by the person who incurred them. I would certainly not expect them to be reimbursed by somebody else."
Harper in question period on June 5
"Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, Mr. Wright informed me of his personal cheque on May 15. This was an error in judgment. He indicated he did this because he believed that taxpayers should be reimbursed and he was prepared to ensure that happened, as in fact it did happen. However, obviously this was an error in judgment for many reasons that have already been outlined and for that reason, I accepted his resignation."
Harper at a news conference on July 6 in Calgary
"I think if you read the affidavit it makes very clear that the decision to pay money to Mr. Duffy out of Mr Wright’s personal funds was made solely by Mr. Wright and was his responsibility. Obviously, had I known about this earlier I would never have allowed this to take place. When I answered questions about this in the House of Commons I answered questions to the best of my knowledge."