NEWS

Vote on fates of Duffy, Wallin, Brazeau stalled until next week

10/31/2013 02:29 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
The Senate continues to be tied up in procedural manoeuvring as it meets once again Thursday to deal with motions to suspend three of its senators.

In the meantime, a final Senate vote on the suspensions without pay hangs in abeyance, as it has for over a week.

The red chamber moved Thursday to to adjourn at the end of the day so that Conservative senators can be free Friday to attend their party's national policy conference in Calgary. 

Because the Senate isn't sitting Friday, it means the vote that would finally decide the fate of senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau might not happen until Tuesday of next week.

There are three motions before the Senate to suspend each senator without pay, as well deny them access to their offices, their budgets, and even their cellphones. The suspensions are meant to be a Senate-imposed sanction because of their inappropriate expense claims for housing and travel.

The three senators are also being investigated by the RCMP over their expenses, but none has been charged. Many Liberals and a few Conservatives believe any suspensions should be put on hold until they are charged, if that happens, or even convicted.

The Conservatives have a large majority in the Senate.

Procedural tangling

Much of the blame for the procedural wrangling seems to lie in the hands of the government leadership in the Senate.

Government Senate leader Claude Carignan, newly appointed as leader and a rookie in the complex maze of Senate procedure, didn't do himself any favours by introducing the suspension motions as non-government motions early last week.

He may have used this tactic to let Conservative senators vote freely, knowing many would feel uncomfortable voting against a government motion, even if they believe the proposed suspensions are unfair. Senators Hugh Segal and Don Plett, both Conservatives, have spoken about what they see as a lack of due process for Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.

But when Carignan tried to impose closure to limit debate time as a government motion, the  Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella ruled a government closure motion can't be applied to a non-government motion.

Had Carignan made the suspensions government motions from the beginning, he could have brought in closure and forced a vote within a few days.

But he didn't, and the results of that initial decision have been damaging to the government.

Duffy may speak again

The delay meant Duffy has had a chance to speak not once, but twice, and may speak again on Monday. Each time his addresses have been explosive and revealing, as he releases details about a deal he says lawyers in the Prime Minister's Office as well as the Conservative Party were in on.

The deal meant Duffy's disallowed housing expenses were paid for by Harper's former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, with a personal $90,000 cheque. In return Duffy said he was obliged to make it seem as if he were paying them back himself, with contrition and even an apology about how repayment was "the right thing to do."

In his second speech, Duffy revealed his legal fees over the negotiation of the deal, $13,500, were paid for by a cheque from the Conservative Party lawyer Arthur Hamilton.

The delay has also meant Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been hammered for days in question period with queries about the Duffy-Wright deal, and how much he knew about it.

Finally, the stalling of the Senate vote means Harper can't address Conservative Party members gathered at the Calgary convention and announce the three senators have been kicked out and deprived of their salaries. The convention is underway, and lasts through Saturday.

On Thursday, Carignan spearheaded a new motion, this time a government one, that will reiterate the intention to strip Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau of salaries and budgets, but will allow them to keep life, health and dental insurance.

He is also again expected to move closure on the motion, this time successfully, to limit debate time, so that it will speedily pass, likely by Tuesday.

Some time after that, the department of Public Works will stop issuing pay cheques to Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau.

MORE:cbcNews