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This article was published 21/3/2011 (3223 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — A senator who was found guilty this month of fraud and breach of trust has resigned.
Sen. Raymond Lavigne's resignation came Monday as the Senate was poised, for the first time in its history, to decide whether to strip a senator of his office.
Senators were alerted of Lavigne's decision early Monday afternoon, half an hour before the Conservatives planned to ask the Senate to discuss kicking him out.
Lavigne's resignation, effective immediately, protects the 65-year-old's $79,000 pension. If senators had successfully ejected him, the Liberal appointee might have received nothing.
"The taxpayer part of his pension should be completely revoked," said Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Derek Fildebrandt. "He didn't resign out of any feelings of guilt; he resigned because he knew he was going to be kicked out."
Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe said he believes parliamentarians have no way to stop Lavigne from collecting his pension. "But I find it shameful," he told reporters.
Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc said Lavigne did the right thing. "I am pleased this decision was taken and announced today," he said.
Lavigne was found guilty March 11 in Ontario Superior Court of defrauding the federal government of $10,120.50 in false travel claims and of breach of trust for abusing his office by using a staff member, paid by taxpayers, to cut 60 trees on his personal property in Wakefield, Que.
Lavigne's sentencing hearing is May 10. He faces up to 14 years in prison.
The senator, a former Liberal MP who was expelled from the party caucus after his file was handed to the RCMP, came under fire recently for spending $315,355 on travel in three years, on top of his $132,300 senatorial salary, despite being barred from doing any work in the Senate or its committees.
His colleagues put him on a forced leave of absence after the RCMP charged him in 2007, which effectively banned him from setting foot in the upper chamber. After his conviction last month, a Senate steering committee cut his travel and office budget.
The Tories planned to move swiftly Monday by introducing two motions — one that would remove Lavigne's salary and the other that would bounce him from his seat.
Five other senators in trouble with the law either died or resigned their seats before colleagues had a chance to throw them out.
— Postmedia News