August 20, 2017


25° C, A few clouds

Full Forecast


Advertise With Us

Senate scandal wins race

Ongoing story that could shape Canada's political future beats Ford antics

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/12/2013 (1332 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Journalists love to say it is not the crime, but rather the coverup, that becomes a politician's undoing.

Never has that been more true than in the still-simmering Senate expense scandal, the Free Press national story of the year.

The Senate Chamber on Parliament Hill: Winnipeg Free Press readers picked the expense scandal as the story of the year, and it could help determine the outcome of the next election.


The Senate Chamber on Parliament Hill: Winnipeg Free Press readers picked the expense scandal as the story of the year, and it could help determine the outcome of the next election.

What started out in June 2012 as a mundane review of expenses submitted by senators has turned into a scandal that will likely help determine the outcome of the next election.

It was hard to identify a single national story of the year. It will come as no surprise that it was a neck-and-neck race with Toronto's crack-smoking, wisecracking, wreck of a mayor, Rob Ford. In the end, however, the Senate expense scandal has the potential to shape the political future of Canada.

It is not, however, an easy story to follow. Other than the fact "Senate expenses" seems to be a phrase on everyone's lips these days, it may be hard for some to identify the specific crimes and misdemeanours that are dogging Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.

Simply put, this is a story of a governing party using its power and influence to sweep away details of expense transgressions by members of its Senate caucus. And then, having been caught in that first coverup, further attempting to manipulate reviews and investigations to contain the matter.

The scandal has four principal characters -- Tory Sens. Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, and former Liberal senator Mac Harb.

All four were flagged by an audit as having improperly claimed living and (in the case of Wallin) travel expenses. All four have either been suspended, or have resigned from the upper chamber.

Arcane residency rules are, regardless of whose side you take, at the heart of the expense scandal.

Senators are required to live in the provinces they represent in the upper chamber. The rules also state senators can claim generous per diems and housing expenses to maintain a residence in Ottawa as long as they also pay to maintain a primary residence in the province they represent.

The rules are not problematic, in and of themselves. However, many senators are appointed to represent provinces they may have been born in, but have not lived in for decades. This was certainly the issue that originally ensnared Duffy and Wallin. It appears Brazeau may not have had a primary residence when he was appointed, and Harb had at least two other properties but neither served as his primary residence.

The scandal starts with concerns the senators went to extreme lengths to create the impression they were maintaining primary residences outside the Ottawa region. Investigations revealed Duffy claimed a rarely used cottage in Prince Edward Island as his primary residence. Wallin claimed travel expenses to visit Saskatchewan, the province she represented, even though her primary residence was a condo in Toronto. Harb made the same claim about a house he had essentially sold, but retained a tiny interest in, to meet expense requirements.

In essence, however, these transgressions are small potatoes. Yes, the amounts of money were measured in the tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, it was the effort to make these transgressions go away that has really tripped up Harper.

The manipulation begins with Harper's then chief of staff, Nigel Wright, providing a personal $90,000 cheque to Duffy to repay improperly claimed living expenses. The money appears to have been, in general, an organized bid to quash further examination of Senate expenses and, in particular, a way of buying Duffy out of trouble.

The Wright loan to Duffy is problematic on several levels. First, it is disturbing to find out the prime minister's senior-most political adviser had been involved in an unseemly transaction to bail a senator out of trouble. Second, is the attempt by Wright and others in the PMO to claim Harper did not know what was going on in his own office.

The sheer unbelievability of that claim has sullied Harper's reputation in an immeasurable fashion. If Harper did know, and then lied about it, he has signed his own political death warrant. However, the suggestion he did not know is equally problematic.

It suggests Harper is surrounded by political staff who suffer from a profound ethical and moral deficit. That ultimately raises questions about Harper's own ethical-moral compass.

This is why, on so many different levels, coverups are worse than the original transgressions.

Harper has tried to deflect attention away from the expense scandal by contributing to a misguided debate about the future of the Senate itself. There is no doubt the pursuit of an unelected, upper legislative chamber needs to be undertaken. In its present form, it is hardly worthy of the time, effort and expense we now devote to it.

However, in a country where there is a great disparity in population between the largest and smallest provinces, surely there is a need for some balance in our federation. Without a Senate, which can give smaller provinces the ability to withstand the bully tactics of larger ones, we cease to be a federation.

By the terms of federal legislation, the next election must be held by the fall of 2015. It could be held earlier, if Harper believes there is a tactical advantage. That is nearly two years for the Tories to put the Senate expense scandal on ice.

Or, that's just enough time to reveal the full extent of the coverup.

Read more by Dan Lett.


Advertise With Us

Smoke rises from railway cars that were carrying crude oil after derailing in downtown Lac Megantic, Que, Saturday, July 6, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson - CP
A fireman walks through the debris as work continues at the crash site of the train derailment and fire Tuesday, July 16, 2013 in Lac-Megantic, Que. that left 37 people confirmed dead and another 13 missing and presumed dead.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz - CP
A flooded Calgary Stampede stadium is seen from a aerial view in Calgary Saturday, June 22, 2013. Environment Canada says floods were big newsmakers in Canada in 2013, and June's record flooding in Calgary and southern Alberta leads its Top 10 weather stories of the year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward - CP
Kevan Yeats swims after his cat Momo to safety in High River, Alta. on June 20, 2013. Yeats who gained international fame after leaping from a submerged pickup truck into Alberta floodwaters says he was surprised at how eagerly the feline took to the rushing water. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jordan Verlage - CP
Rescuers search for missing workers in a quarry at L'Epiphanie, Que., Tuesday, January 29, 2013, following a landslide where a number of vehicles fell into the quarry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes. - CP
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford displays a milk moustache as he takes part in voting with city council members in Toronto on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette - CP
Canadian Astronaut and ISS commander Chris Hadfield is framed by spacesuitsa s he performs David Bowie's Space Oddity on the International Space Station, published on Sunday May 12, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, CSA - Chris Hadfield - CP
The Peace Tower is pictured through the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, October 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
Senator Patrick Brazeau is escorted out the Parliament Buildings after he was suspended by from duties by the Senate in Ottawa Tuesday February 12, 2013 . THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand - CP
Senator Pamela Wallin, chair of the National Security and Defence committee, adjusts her glasses at the start of a meeting, Monday February 11, 2013 in Ottawa. The prime minister is defending yet another senator who has come under scrutiny for her expense claims.Stephen Harper says he's reviewed Conservative Sen. Wallin's travel bills and they appear to be in line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld - CP
Sen. Mike Duffy shields his eyes as he arrives at the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut on Tuesday, August 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
NDP leader Tom Mulcair speaks with the media following a party caucus meeting on Parliament Hill Wednesday May 8, 2013 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld - CP
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau addresses supporters at a barn party at the home of Cardigan MP Lawrence MacAulay in St. Peters Bay, P.E.I. on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013. The party is holding their summer caucus retreat in nearby Georgetown. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan - CP
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, right, walks with Bob Rae following a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 19, 2013., where Rae announced his resignation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
Inukshuk, aneleven-year-old male polar bear, is pictured through the ice as he swims underwater at the Toronto Zoo on Thursday February 21, 2013. Environment Minister Peter Kent was at the zoo where he was presented with a Polar Bears International award: Champion of Polar Bears, PBI's highest honour. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young - CP
People watch jellyfish during the grand opening of the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette - CP
Onlookers watch hot air balloons glow at sunset during a kick off event for the Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships in High River, Alta., photo taken Friday, Sept. 27, 2013.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh - CP
A small tip of the Lions Gate Bridge sticks out of the fog rolling into Vancouver harbour late Thursday night, Oct. 24, 2013. A weather system has brought heavy fog into Vancouver and the lower mainland for more than a week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward - CP
A pedestrian make her way through a snowstorm in Ottawa on Wednesday Feb 27, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
Snow falls at near the McGillivray Pass Lodge located in the southern Chilcotin Mountains of British Columbia, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward - CP
A person watches a shark swim above during the grand opening of the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette - CP
Stephane Sevigny keeps an eye on his daughter Serena, 7, of Yellowknife as they lie down to get a view of Alexandra Falls on the Hay River south of Hay River, Northwest Territories on Tuesday, August 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
Competitors take their start in the women triathlon at the Canada Games Tuesday, August 13, 2013 in Sherbrooke, Quebec. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson - CP
A Kermode bear, better know as the Spirit Bear is seen fishing in the Riordan River on Gribbell Island in the Great Bear Rainforest, B.C. Wednesday, Sept, 18, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward - CP
Darrell Trouton paddles a kayak as a rainbow stretches across the sky in Trout Lake, British Columbia on Tuesday May 28, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson - CP
Transgender student Wren Kauffman, 11, was born a girl but at the age of 9 started identifying as a boy and now lives his life as a male in Edmonton, Alberta on Thursday August 29, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson - CP
Widow Sharlene Bosma cries at a memorial in Hamilton, Ont., Wednesday, May 22, 2013, for her husband Tim Bosma, the Hamilton, Ont., man found dead after he took two men on a test drive.THE CANADIAN PRESS. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette - CP
Mourners react outside the funeral for 18-year-old Sammy Yatim in Toronto, Thursday, Aug.1, 2013. Yatim died Saturday morning after receiving multiple gunshot wounds during an "interaction" with police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn - CP
A child is hugged after police release the children to family at the scene of a shooting in Gatineau on Friday April 5, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
Viewers walk past artist Jonathan Jones' 68 Fletcher, Bondi, 20:20, 8.6.03., during a media preview of Sakahan: International Indigenous Art, at the National Gallery in Ottawa, Wednesday, May 15, 2013. which is the largest-ever global survey of contemporary Indigenous art. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick - CP
A woman gets back into her flooded car on the Toronto Indy course on Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto on Monday, July 8 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS - CP
Cpl Mathieu Lebel, from Quebec City, Que., of the Canadian Forces Skyhawks parachute team jumps out of a Hercules aircraft deploy over the Calgary Stampede rodeo in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, July 11, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh - CP
A truck is used to move a float plane at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Friday May 3, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck - CP
Ice fog from the St. Lawrence river blankets the city as windchill temperatures hit -38C Wednesday, January 23, 2013 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz - CP
A fair-goer is silhouetted against a blue moon while riding the "Atmosfear" attraction at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday August 20, 2013. The double swing lifts riders more than 60-metres above the ground while traveling at 70 kilometres per hour. The annual fair runs through September 2. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck - CP
Dressed as Akuma from Street Fighter, Addy Davies, of Nanaimo, B.C., attends the Anime Revolution convention in Vancouver, B.C., on Sunday August 18, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck - CP

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Photo Store

Scroll down to load more