THE ongoing living and travel-expense scandals surrounding a trio of Canadian senators has made it increasingly difficult for the upper chamber to do its job, according to a pair of their colleagues.
"It has been difficult times in Ottawa, to say the least," said Sen. Don Plett. "Mistakes have been made. We need to consider how we move forward from here."
Plett and fellow Manitoba Sen. Maria Chaput dropped by the Free Press Caf© Friday afternoon to discuss what effect the activities of Mike Duffy, Mac Harb and Patrick Brazeau could have on the future of the Senate.
There's no question Duffy, a former CTV journalist, is at the eye of the storm. He recently paid back his housing allowance, courtesy of a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright, who resigned as Prime Minister Harper's chief of staff earlier this week after the cheque came to light.
Chaput said it's difficult to concentrate on the tasks at hand with all of the extracurricular activities going on.
"I feel bad for the Senate itself. I believe in the Senate of Canada and I believe in the work we're doing for our country. It's sad," she said.
Chaput, a Liberal, said it's fair to say other members of her caucus are worried about the entire expense-claiming process.
"(Whether they're) colleagues or not, nobody is above the law. We need to know what happened," she said.
Chaput said she hoped the Senate committee looking into the matter would hold public hearings, but she doesn't think it will. "We just want to know who did what and get back to work," she said.
Plett, a Conservative, said he believes the scandal has put Harper in an awkward position that's not of his making.
Wright, he noted, took full responsibility for writing the cheque. "And it cost him his job. He was possibly the second most powerful person in this country. It was done by Wright, not the government," he said.
Neither senator believed the scandal would lead to the abolition of the chamber of sober second thought.
"I do not believe the Senate is in danger," Plett said. "We have had members of Parliament who have been found wanting for misappropriation of funds and nobody talks about dismantling the House of Commons. We have 105 senators and 102 (who aren't being investigated). That's a pretty good majority."