Bid to suspend senators exposes rift in Tory ranks

The Harper government’s bid for summary execution of disgraced senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau has turned into an agonizingly slow soap opera that is exposing a nasty — and increasingly personal — family feud within the ruling Conservative caucus.

OTTAWA — The Harper government’s bid for summary execution of disgraced senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau has turned into an agonizingly slow soap opera that is exposing a nasty — and increasingly personal — family feud within the ruling Conservative caucus.

Debate over government motions to suspend, without pay, the three erstwhile Conservatives continued to rage in the Senate for the third straight day — with no end in sight.

Thursday’s debate saw Marjory LeBreton, former government leader in the Senate, fired back at Duffy for alleging she was part of a “monstrous” conspiracy to intimidate him into accepting a secret deal to pay back ineligible expenses or face being disqualified from sitting in the Senate.

She variously described Duffy’s claims as “utterly preposterous,” “blatant falsehood” and “stretching credulity.”

And, although LeBreton didn’t directly question Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s judgment in appointing Duffy to the upper chamber, she revealed that she was never a fan of the former broadcast journalist, who hosted a daily show on federal politics until his elevation to the Senate in 2009.

“I sometimes found myself . . . frustrated by his style of journalism, trading as he did, more often than not, on gossip and the latest hot rumour,” LeBreton told the upper chamber.

“And sometimes I was so disgusted that I felt like putting my foot through the television set.”

When anyone complained, Duffy would say, “It’s showbiz,” LeBreton said, implying that Duffy has taken the same approach to justifying his role in the Senate expenses scandal.

Duffy and Brazeau, along with former Liberal senator Mac Harb, are under investigation by the RCMP for allegedly fraudulently claiming Senate housing allowances and living expenses.

The Mounties are also investigating the fact that Duffy accepted $90,000 from Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, to reimburse his ineligible expenses.

That $90,000 cheque was again a focal point down the hall during the daily question period in the House of Commons, where the prime minister’s combative bluster from the day before was gone, replaced by a bob-and-weave defence.

Where Harper insisted in June that nobody but Wright and Duffy knew of the reimbursement scheme, he changed his tune Thursday, saying Wright “informed very few people” — all of them known to be key Harper confidantes.

“Mr. Speaker, I refer the prime minister to Hansard of June 5,” retorted NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. “There was no ‘very few’ in there. It was ‘nobody.”’

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