Docking Mike Duffy’s Pay Well Within Senate Rules: Housakos
The chair of the committee that manages the internal workings of the Senate says the decision to dock Mike Duffy’s pay over expense irregularities was well within the rules, and although Mr. Duffy has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, there is little desire among senators to see him reimbursed.
Mr. Duffy, the former broadcast journalist who was acquitted two weeks ago on 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery, returns to the Red Chamber this week for the first time since he and two other senators – Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau – were suspended without pay in 2013.
Mr. Duffy’s salary was restored when the election was called last August, but he lost about $270,000 during the suspension. His lawyer, Donald Bayne, has said the decision to dock Mr. Duffy’s pay was “outrageous” and amounted to the presumption of guilt. Mr. Bayne said the Senate should return his client’s wages.
But Senator Leo Housakos, chair of the Senate’s internal economy committee, told CTV’s Question Period with The Globe and Mail’s Robert Fife on Sunday that he does not believe his fellow senators would want to see Parliament write Mr. Duffy a cheque.
“The suspension was a decision taken by the Senate as a whole and not by internal economy, and it would require a motion of the Senate as a whole to overturn a decision like that,” Mr. Housakos said.
The motion to suspend the three senators, who were appointed as Conservatives by former prime minister Stephen Harper, was presented by Claude Carignan, the leader of the Senate’s Tory caucus.
It was a “disciplinary decision,” said Mr. Housakos, who is also a Conservative. It was, he said, “unprecedented action, no doubt, to punish these three senators for behaviour that we thought was inappropriate. But, nonetheless, it was within our rules.”
Any senator, including Mr. Duffy, could put forward a motion on the Senate floor to restore the salary that was lost. “I suspect, though, that there probably wouldn’t be much of an appetite for senators to go back and revisit that,” Mr. Housakos said. “The Senate did what it needed to do in an unprecedented way to make sure that the rules of the Senate were respected.”
Senator David Tkachuk, another Conservative who chaired the internal economy committee as the Duffy scandal was unfolding, told The Globe and Mail on Sunday that he agrees with Mr. Housakos that Mr. Duffy should not receive back pay.
“The Senate dealt with its own issues. It dealt with more than Senator Duffy. And it’s over. It’s done,” Mr. Tkachuk said.
At least one senator disagrees.
Senator John Wallace, who quit the Conservative caucus last year to sit as an independent, said last week that he believes the suspension process was a “debacle” and that “the Senate should do the right thing and compensate Senator Duffy and move on.”
Liberal Senator David Smith said Sunday in an interview that he has yet to make up his mind, but he believes the issue should be put before a three-person Senate committee that exists to decide such things.
“I think they should hear the case from those who are in favour of doing that and from those who are against it and see what they recommend,” Mr. Smith said. “I don’t like to leap to any conclusions. I am a lawyer and I have argued cases when I was younger, and that’s why I like to hear both sides.”
Both Mr. Housakos and Mr. Tkachuk stressed that the Duffy episode has forced the Senate to strengthen the guidelines around what can be claimed as expenses, and both said abuses are unlikely to happen again.
“We did set out on a whole new chapter of tightening up the rules that I think are very sufficient,” Mr. Tkachuk said. “Certainly the message has been sent. The whole Senate has had a message sent [to it]: Don’t do stuff like this.”