I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with a Conservative today.
Senator Hugh Segal has stepped up in defence of Senator Pamela Wallin and as much as it bothers me to say it, he’s right.
I haven’t changed my stance on Pam Wallin, I still have doubts whether she should be in the Senate based solely on the residency requirements listed in the Constitution, but I still believe that everyone is entitled to their day in court, even Pam Wallin, even Mike Duffy, and even Pat Brazeau.
The announcement that the Senate was going after these three Senators makes it look like the Harper Party Loyalists has tossed away their Flags and Hockey Sticks for new attire. Playing Cards with Hearts on them would seem far more appropriate today.
‘No, no!’ said the Queen. ‘Sentence first — verdict afterwards.’
Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
Senator Segal raises a number of points that need to be considered, starting with the fact that the Senate called in the RCMP to look into the affairs of Ms. Wallin et al and that the investigations have not yet been completed.
Another issue that Senator Segal raises is that the rules that Wallin stands accused of breaking, were not rules when they were broken.
Sort of like sending out retroactive speeding tickets when the speed limit is reduced on a certain street.
The travelling to stump for candidates and to fundraise for them was not only allowable when she made those trips, it was encouraged. It was part of the training for the new Senators brought in under Harper’s reign. I might not like it and you might not like it, but it was within the rules at the time.
Personally I’d like to see more distance between the Senate and the House politically, but I know that is not likely to happen anytime soon.
Senator Segal is not alone in his stance on the attack on these Senators.
#cdnpoli Cons. Sens to suspend 3 Sens w/o pay. Suspension within powers of Senate? Yes. Without pay? Don't think so. ....2/
Now who really cares what someone on Twitter has to say on this matter?
I do. Robert Walsh is a recently retired Law Clerk for the House of Commons. He is the person that MPs went to when they had legal questions to do with House business. Maybe that should read the Law Clerk. The House of Commons may have many lawyers, but only one Law Clerk.
He’s not just another pretty face.
One of the things that Mr. Walsh points out is that the Senate does not have the power or authority to suspend a Senator’s pay. They do have the ability to suspend a Senator and stop them from being in the Senate Chambers or use their Senate Privileges, but not to stop their pay. Pat Brazeau is a perfect example. Most of us were ticked when Brazeau was “punished” by being told to stay home, but that his pay would continue. It seems hardly fair, but that’s the way the rules work.
But the rules exist for a reason. Could you imagine what would happen if the mere accusation if improper conduct was enough to get you expelled from the Senate without pay? The majority party would be able to pick off individuals they didn’t like and have them tossed and their pay withheld for the remainder of the session.
For a wealthy Senator, like Wallin this might not be a horrid thing, but for a Senator who doesn’t have a bag of money to fall back on this could be devastating. What a useful tool to force your opponents to vote your way.
There are some others who are watching this unfold with interest.
Members in the House of Commons on both sides are waiting to see what happens. If these Senators are suspended without pay for improper conduct without a trial, it could well set a precedent… and this precedent could be used in the House of Commons as well. Both the Senate and the House operate under the same rules for many things, this is one of them.
I’m not a betting cat, but if I were, I’d be putting my pennies on the Harper Party wanting Wallin to win out on this one. Why? Because he’s about run out of electioneering items and he’s love to go to war on “Cleaning Up the Senate.” Never mind that He’s the genius who put these people in there in the first place and that he’s appointed just as many, if not more exjournalists, failed politicians, and party bagmen as any other leader in our history.
Look, I think we can all agree that the Senate and the naming of Senators is a question that needs to be looked at, but now is not the time. The first order of business is to let the RCMP do their investigations and then lay charges if there is evidence of wrongdoing.
And if they’re guilty, fire their butts out of there with my blessing.
Senator Segal is one of the few Conservatives that I have any respect for. He’s old enough to remember what the Senate is supposed to be and unlike his Harper Party cohorts, he has the chutzpah to stand up for what’s right. At least when he talks, I know it’s what he wants to say, and not what someone in the PMO handed him.
I may not agree with his politics, but I can still respect the man.
Kind of nice for a change.