Thursday, February 06, 2014

What IF?

Good Day Readers:

Now that Senators Brazeau and Harb have formally been charged by the RCMP (one count each of breach of trust and fraud) what's likely to happen next? Either or both could plead not guilty and go to trial or plead guilty to await a sentencing date. Sean May, Mac Harb's Toronto lawyer, is already on the public record as suggesting they're going to court to fight the charges. No word yet from Patrick Brazeau.

Experience is a Great Teacher - The Raymond Lavigne Example

Let's start by examining the the case of Raymond Lavigne.

After serving as a Member of Parliament for Quebec's Verdun's Riding, "Mr. Proof," that little guy from Shawinigan, appointed him to the Senate in March of 2002. Who can ever forget .....

"A proof is a proof. What kind of proof? It's a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it because it's proven." Jean Chretien

Well, after becoming an "Honourable Member" of the Upper Chamber it seems like the now "Dishonourable Member" had a problem. A judge found he'd paid an aid $50 per trip to travel between Ottawa and Montreal to cut down trees (among other tasks) on his private property. A second scheme was also shown to have involved a second aid. The as yet still "Honourable Member" then filed formal expense claims for the full amount generating a profit of approximately $175 per trip defrauding taxpayers of about $10,000.

After being charged with one count of fraud and breach of trust, much like Messrs. Brazeau and Harb, at trial he was found guilty, appealed but lost. His sentence? Six months in June of 2011 for fraud over $5,000, a consecutive six-month conditional sentence (essentially house arrest) for breach of  trust plus a court order to pay $10,000 to a charity.

In August of last year his application for early release from "The Big House" was denied by the Ontario Parole Board so he still remains a guest of The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (a euphanism for jail) to this day.

But alas, not all is lost for the good Mr. Lavigne. A loophole in Senate rules allows him to collect an estimated $79,000 annually even as he sits in jail because he immediately resigned prior to conviction thus avoiding eviction by the Red Chamber that would have cost him his government-funded retirement plan. Poor Mr. Lavigne? No, poor taxpayers!

The British Model
Former British Member of Parliament Denis MacShane bag packed trundling off to "The Big House" after sentencing last December at London's historic Old Bailey courthouse.

The Brits have had considerably more experience at prosecuting these sorts of thing than Canadians. Since it's House of Commons expense scandal first broke in 2009 no less than 6 (including Mr. MacShane) have received prison sentences. In his case he got 6-months (half of which must be served in "The Big House") for falsifying 19 expense claims (used for travel throughout Europe between 2005-2008) worth a cool $23,530 (13,000 British Pounds at $1.81 Canadian). Additionally, he was ordered to pay costs of 1,500 Pounds ($2,715 Canadian) within two months.

Denis MacShane was a former BBC journalist. What is it with these former media types who get elected or appointed?

Fast Forward to Mac Harb

Before he could be charged by the RCMP earlier this week Mac Harb retired from the Senate. Hopefully, his colleagues in the Red Chamber gave his a nice "going away" party and present but if not .....

"Harb, who was the MP for Ottawa Centre for 15 years until he was appointed to the Senate in 2003, maxed out on his parliamentary pension in 2007. He was also a city councillor in Ottawa prior to becoming an MP.

A spokesman for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says Harb can collect his full MP pension immediately. That's worth $122,989 a year and is fully indexed, Gregory Thomas told CBC News.

The pension over Harb's lifetime could be worth "$5,020,790 ... assuming living [until] age 90 which is the average life span of pension plan members. In the event of his passing, his surviving spouse will collect 60 per cent of his pension for life, which is not included in this calculation," Thomas wrote in an email." (Senator Mac Harb pays back $231,000 in expenses - retiring: August 26, 2013 CBC News)

How's your pension looking these days Bunky? Need "a bit of a topping up" does it?

Enter Patrick Brazeau

His case is unique. The chronology:

(1) February 2013, charged with one count of assault and one count of sexual assault at his home in Gatineau, Quebec. Woman allegedly assaulted cannot be identified. He is scheduled to appear in court next week for a hearing on the charges

(2) Early November 2013, suspended from the Senate until the next federal election in 2015 without pay along with Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin but allowed to keep benefits

(3) Earlier this week formally charged by RCMP with one count of breach of trust and one of fraud

(4) According to a report (February 7, 2014), the Bank of Nova Scotia has filed to repossess his house within 60 days for mortgage (and other loans) non-payment amounting to a little over $201,000

Mr. Brazeau's case involves the most possible combinations and permutations. If' he's forced to declare bankruptcy it's one of four grounds for his removal of a senator - ceasing to reside or own property in the area he was appointed to represent is another.

Then there's the issue of his upcoming trial. IF convicted of an indictable offence and sentenced to at least two years he will be ineligible to hold any office under the Crown and his senate seat would be declared vacant. Only the Queen could turn that situation around by giving him a pardon - not bloody likely! Of course, there's always the possibility he could be found not guilty.

An interesting situation could arise come 2015 when Patrick Brazeau is scheduled to be reinstated. What if an appeal of a  previous lower court conviction(s) has yet to be heard, a realistic possibility given how slowly the judicial system works? Like Mac Harb would he resign ahead of a final finding of guilt so as to keep his lifetime senate pension? Anyway you turn this it doesn't look good for "Senator" Brazeau.


Not much to say beyond what has already been said. Taxpayers-voters will have to simply wait to see what, if any, charges are laid. Given the time, energy and resources first by Deliotte then the RCMP have invested in their cases it's hard to conceive no indictments come out of these investigations.

Ah yes, Nigel Wright-Duffy!

His situation is particularly interesting because according to media reports the slightly more than $90,000 he "gave" to Mike Duffy was from his pocket and not the public purse. At the time the funds were handed over what were the expectations of both parties? Was there a written or oral agreement and, if so, what were it's terms and conditions? What were Mr. Wright's expectations at the time he gave the "Senator" money? What were Mike Duffy's expectations?

You've got to figure the Mounties are taking a long, hard look at Section 119 of the Criminal Code of Canada (bribery).

The link below is a very readable, layperson's guide to Criminal Charges and Parliamentarians by James R. Robertson, General Counsel and Erin Virgint of the Legal and Legislative Affairs Division of the Parliament of Canada.

Clare L. Pieuk


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