If you’ve watched the news even a handful of times in the past two years, you’ve probably heard of the so-called 'Senate Scandal.' What you may have gathered is that a bunch of senators spent a lot of money they probably shouldn't have and some guy named Mike Duffy seems to be the ringleader. This, of course, is not the full story and barely touches the truth behind a long and complex situation that has unfolded over a number of years. Below we will examine and break down the Senate scandal at a high level.
When Did It All Start?
In June of 2012, Auditor General Michael Ferguson released a study of Senate expense claims that showed a lack of documentation regarding travel and living expenses. As a result of the report, the Senate committee was asked to examine housing allowance claims by Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau after it was revealed he had been collecting an annual $20,000 taxpayer-subsidized housing allowance. The allowance was seen as controversial because Brazeau was renting a home in Gatineau yet claimed his primary residence was still with his father in Maniwaki. Needless to say, the public was skeptical that a grown Senator making $132,000 a year was still living with his father when not working in Ottawa... See where this is going?
Where There's One, There's Probably More
While an investigation was launched into Brazeau, more investigations began looking into the expenses of several other Senators including Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb, and Mike Duffy. Then, in the fall of 2013, the Auditor General made the decision to examine every expense claim made by senators from 2011 to 2013. This examination looked at 80,000 transactions made by 116 senators. The investigation took nearly two years and cost $21 million to complete and revealed that 30 senators had 'questionable expenses.' Invoices were sent to senators for repayment and their information was passed along to the RCMP for the purposes of criminal investigation.
As the scandal became a major news story across the country, Senator Mike Duffy announced that he had decided to voluntarily pay back over $90,000 worth of expenses related to his housing allowance. This coincidentally occurred shortly before Senators Harb and Brazeau were ordered to repay $51,000 and $48,000, respectively. It was later determined that Senator Harb was to actually pay back $230,000 going back as far as seven years, while Senator Wallin also began to repay tens of thousands of dollars that were supposedly expensed ‘incorrectly.’ From the sounds of this it would appear that the senators had learned their lesson and would pay back what they owe, however, this wasn’t the case. Only Senator Duffy paid back his initial amount immediately while the others decided to challenge the auditor findings before making many payments.
Too Little, Too Late
Despite the repayments, Senators Duffy, Brazeau, and Wallin were suspended from the Senate without pay while the RCMP investigation continued. In late 2014, the RCMP formally laid charges against Senators Harb (who had already resigned) and Brazeau with one count each of breach of trust and fraud in relation to their travel and living expense claims. More recently, the RCMP announced that they have since cleared 24 of the 30 senators flagged by the auditor general report of criminal wrongdoing but continue to investigate the remaining senators including Senator Pamela Wallin. The trials for Brazeau and Harb are expected to take place in spring 2016.
The Duffy Controversy
As mentioned, Senator Mike Duffy was the first to 'voluntarily' repay his wrongful expenses of over $90K as a gesture of goodwill without admitting any fault. However, the controversy that would soon follow was one of the major reasons the senate scandal has gotten as much publicity as it has. Soon after the repayment was complete it was revealed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright, had provided Senator Duffy with $90,000 to repay his expenses. The first issue with this was that Duffy used someone else's money to repay his expenses and claimed that the Prime Minister was aware of the transaction. The second problem was that Harper denied knowing anything about the deal and so the whole issue turned into a he said/he said scenario that received massive media attention. In the end Harper remained adamant that he knew nothing while his Chief of Staff 'resigned,' and Senator Duffy faced a whole new set of problems... 31 problems to be exact.
Duffy in the Hot Seat
Just as things were getting heated up between Harper and Duffy, the RCMP intervened and laid 31 charges against the Senator including bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. Duffy publicly denied the charges and fought them in a lengthy trial that concluded in late February 2016. The verdict for the trial is expected in late April and will be reported on by The Dark Horse Report as details become available.
Disclaimer: All information in this post has been fact-checked and is deemed to be accurate as of March 21st 2016. To report a typo or error please contact info@TheDarkHorse.Report