The Clash song might have wondered, but in this case the answer is clear: Duffy should go.
As the Senate spending scandal grows, both of the Yukon’s parliamentarians said that former Conservative Senator Mike Duffy should resign from the Senate entirely.
Yukon MP Ryan Leef was cautious in his criticism, saying that he isn’t advocating jumping to conclusions, and no decision should be taken about Duffy’s future before all the facts are known.
“As someone who has worked in the justice field my entire career, I know there are always two sides to the story. We don’t have all the facts. What we have looks fairly damaging. Obviously it’s easy to say if they are what they seem, my reaction would be absolutely, yes, he needs to resign,” Leef said.
If he were at the centre of such a circus, however, Leef said his decision would be an easy one.
“Personally, if I had a hand in an overwhelming distraction of Canadian business over something I had contributed to, I would seriously have to look at whether there was value in me remaining,” he said.
Yukon Senator Dan Lang went one step farther, saying Duffy needs to resign immediately.
“Quite frankly, when it comes to Senator Duffy, I think he should reflect upon what’s happened this past weekend, and I would hope he would make an announcement sooner rather than later. Nobody is bigger than the institution,” Lang said.
“The announcement would obviously be that he would be stepping down from the Senate entirely. The rules are very clear and you have to adhere to those rules,” he said.
Lang added that former Liberal Senator Mac Harb should also resign for his role in the scandal.
Duffy, Harb and former Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin have been at the centre of a controversy for weeks now about their spending habits, and the amount of money they have charged back to taxpayers.
Audits into Duffy and Harb’s spending practices revealed that they each improperly expensed nearly $100,000 by claiming their primary residences outside of Ottawa, even though they spend the vast majority of their time in the capital.
A third audit is underway of Wallin’s expenses, and both Leef and Lang said they will wait until that audit is finished before commenting on whether Wallin should stay or go. Duffy, Harb and Wallin have resigned from their respective caucuses, but still sit as independents in the Senate.
On the weekend, the scandal took a surprising turn when it was revealed that Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Nigel Wright, cut Duffy a cheque for more than $90,000 to cover the money he was ordered to pay back. Wright immediately resigned, and Harper has denied any knowledge of the deal.
Earlier this week the prime minister said in a speech he was “very upset” with the actions of “some parliamentarians,” but he stopped short of naming the trio or his chief of staff explicitly.
When asked if Harper went far enough in condemning the senators’ actions, Leef said, “Everyone knows who we’re talking about. I’m not sure if pointing out the obvious was absolutely necessary. We need to start pointing out what the solutions are, and the solutions aren’t as obvious as the problem.”
On Wednesday, the RCMP became involved, asking the government for documents relating to the scandal.
Leef said he remains committed to Senate reform. “I committed to standing up for whatever we had to do to make the Senate more accountable, which really does mean elected,” he said.
“It’s an interesting dynamic for us. We have the advantage of having two parliamentarians in Ottawa with a significant voice, and we do well because of that,” said Leef, adding that the majority of senators, including Dan Lang, do good and important work.
“You put an election into that, and it certainly changes the dynamics. As in the U.S., the balance of power would instantly shift to the Senate because your senator would be one voice in around 100, and your MP is one in 300,” he said.
That could actually give Yukoners a larger voice in Ottawa. But some, including the NDP Opposition, are urging the government to go one step farther and abolish it completely. The Supreme Court is currently examining whether that is possible under Canadian constitutional law. If Senate abolition was possible, Leef said he would have to put the question to Yukoners before he could support it.
“If the Supreme Court came forward and said, ‘Yes, the government could move forward on a vote by parliamentarians to abolish the Senate,’ then that’s something that I would have to take to our people.
“It’s such a significant decision in the history of the Canadian Parliament that I’m not sure I’d be prepared to do that solely on the direction we propose in Ottawa. I would take that to the people of the Yukon directly,” Leef said.
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