Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

RCMP should investigate Senate players: Liberals

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OTTAWA -- Federal Liberals are trying to drag Justice Minister Peter MacKay into the Senate expenses scandal, urging him to ensure no legal stone is unturned in the quest to prosecute all those involved.

Liberal justice critic Sean Casey wrote MacKay on Friday, arguing he has a legal duty to ensure public affairs are conducted lawfully.

In particular, Casey said MacKay has a statutory obligation to ensure enforcement of Sec. 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act, which so far appears to have been ignored by the RCMP as it investigates allegations against Sen. Mike Duffy and Nigel Wright, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's former chief of staff.

The section says it's an indictable offence, punishable by up to a year in prison, for anyone to offer compensation to a senator for services rendered in relation to any claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate. It's also an offence, punishable by a fine of up to $4,000, for a senator to accept such compensation.

Wright, has admitted giving $90,000 to Duffy so the senator could reimburse the Senate for disputed living expense claims.

The RCMP is alleging the pair engaged in bribery, fraud and breach of trust, as defined in the Criminal Code. Neither Wright nor Duffy has been charged with any offence.

Some parliamentary law experts are puzzled why the Mounties have not so far mentioned Sec. 16 of the Parliament of Canada Act. Unlike the Criminal Code provisions, the act does not require proof of intent.

In his letter Friday, Casey reminded MacKay the Department of Justice Act "places an explicit duty on you, as minister of justice and attorney general, to 'see that the administration of public affairs is in accordance with the law.' "

He called on MacKay to ensure the Parliament of Canada Act is enforced in the case of Wright, Duffy and the more than a dozen other individuals who played a role in hammering out the deal with Duffy.

Casey said MacKay should "invite" the RCMP to consider expanding its investigation to include the Parliament of Canada Act.

"I don't think that's out of line. The RCMP will then do what they will," Casey said.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 11, 2014 A24

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