POLITICS

Senate to debate health plan amendment for 3 senators

10/30/2013 02:25 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
The Senate is expected to hear  proposals today that would allow three senators threatened with suspensions and loss of their salaries to keep their Senate-issued health benefits and life insurance. 

Senators MIke Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau are in the hot seat because of inappropriately claimed expenses. All have been told to repay thousands of dollars for disallowed housing and travel claims.

The medical benefits amendments to the possible two-year suspensions were introduced late Tuesday night by the government deputy Senate leader, Yonah Martin, although she did not get a chance to explain them before the Senate adjourned for the evening.

However, Conservative Senate leader Claude Carignan told reporters who were waiting outside the Senate chamber that Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau would have a difficult time obtaining private life insurance if they are suspended for two years. 

Asked why he was agreeable to the three keeping their benefits, Carignan said, "Because it's logical," implying the Senate was contemplating suspending the three senators, not expelling them completely.

Carignan added there was no plan to shorten the length of the proposed suspensions, as had been rumoured.

Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, an old friend of Wallin's who argued in her defence this week, agreed there would be "a touch of humanity" allowing the three senators to keep benefits and insurance, but he's still troubled by "the lack of due process," if they end up getting suspended without pay before they get "a fair hearing." 

Duffy has had serious heart problems and Wallin is a former cancer patient. In an impassioned speech to the Senate last week, Duffy plaintively asked, "Who will pay for my heart drugs?"

Asked whether Conservative senators might soften and go for shorter suspensions, Segal said, "I have no reason to believe that, I'm afraid."

The Senate adjourned at 11 p.m. ET Tuesday. Unanimous consent to introduce the new amendments was denied, so they will have to wait until debate resumes Wednesday at 2 p.m.

Procedural wrangling in the Senate means a vote on the possible suspensions won't happen until at least Friday.

3 motions on table

There are three motions on the table to give each senator a suspension of two years, around the time a general election is expected to be held.

Carignan bears some responsibility for the delay because he introduced motions to suspend his three colleagues last week, and then brought in another motion to limit debate time on his own motions.

Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan told reporters in the Senate foyer that the Conservatives are trying to end the debate because, he said, Harper's coverup is unravelling.

However, Conservative MP Jay Aspin said Wednesday, "It's all the Liberals' fault if they'd just get out of the way we could get rid of these senators."

Even some senators are having a hard time following the procedural twists and turns in the chamber.

Conservative Senator Don Meredith said Tuesday during the debate, " We've got sub-motions before us, we've got motions and counter-motions."

Liberal Senator Joseph Day said, "You almost need a scorecard to keep on top of this."