Senate circus still in play

We witnessed history here Tuesday evening, and it was about as tawdry as it gets.

We witnessed history here Tuesday evening, and it was about as tawdry as it gets.

An embarrassed Senate further embarrassed itself with an efficient execution before a proper trial for three of its own.

Canadians may not really care about due process in its Senate, but after Tuesday surely they can understand that if you become a problem for Stephen Harper you become roadkill.

One really just wanted to look away before the firing squad rose in its place.

For Harper, it was a political victory but not a substantive one. This Senate circus dragged on so long it did him more damage during the two-week show than any benefit he could have accrued from the vote that removed Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin from the Senate for up to two years.

Harper has removed the privileged soapbox that the trio, particularly Duffy, had from their Senate perch.

He can tell the faithful the three raided the public purse and were purged. He can crow that the Liberals want to protect the “club” and tried to keep the three in there as long as possible. The Harper argument will be simple going forward — Nigel Wright, the former chief of staff who Harper maintains acted in concert with Duffy, is gone. Duffy is gone. Wallin is gone. Brazeau is gone.

This may slow the Senate saga temporarily, but it will not kill it.

There is no way to understate what the Conservative majority in the Senate has done and they had all better be sure they have clean hands before they, too, are reduced to health and life insurance benefits.

None of the three faces any charges in relation to their spending, although Brazeau does face criminal charges of assault and sexual assault.

Duffy is under police investigation for possible breach of trust and subsequent cover story he says was cooked up in Harper’s office and Wallin is being probed in relation to her travel expense claims.

A Liberal, Mac Harb, is also under police investigation but he has retired from the Senate.

If any of the three were to be charged, tried and convicted between Tuesday’s suspension and their potential date of return in 2015, the suspension would become an expulsion, but on the day they received their sentences they had been charged with nothing.

In the meantime, a precedent has been established and the suspensions have shown the country that the Conservative majority is merely an arm of the PMO and feels it is above the law.

Brazeau is hardly an oracle, but when he warns that those voting to suspend could one day be on the other side of this gulf, he should be heeded.

Brazeau, the first to be booted, walked resolutely to his car, silent, a night after he wavered between lashing out, playing the race card and taking the high road for his children in an emotional address.

Duffy, who says he is having heart work done later this week, missed his own execution. It was lost on no one that Duffy, who has spent most of his life riding the vagaries of the news gods, was suspended on a day when Rob Ford knocked Duffy off the top of the national newscasts.

Last came Wallin to rue the “sad day for democracy,” as she departed the chamber for possibly the last time. “If we can’t expect the rule of law in Canada, then where on earth can we expect it?’’ she said.

Harper may have shut down one avenue of trouble, but more loom.

Duffy, in particular, is expert in surreptitiously making documents available. He may not yet be done because after two weeks of successfully picking at Harper’s credibility he will likely look for a proper place and time for his next salvo.

There are continuing RCMP investigations, a Senate audit, the potential for Wright to step forward to defend his reputation and holes in the story of a prime minister who maintains he was in the dark as a deal was cut to pay Duffy’s expenses, a fake narrative was crafted and his legal fees were paid by the party.

It’s going to take more than three Senate ejector seats to get past that.

Tim Harper is a syndicated Toronto Star national news columnist.

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