Friday, May 31, 2013

A Canadian Hurricane Centre Special Taxpayer Alert: Batten down the hatches Hurricane Pam is headed your way!

Senate spending scandal: In midst of Mike Duffy storm, Conservatives brace for Hurricane Wallin: Tim Harper

Their colleagues are eagerly taking down Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin before they are completely dragged down with them, writes Star columnist Tim Harper

By Tim Harper, National Affairs
Friday, May 31, 2013
Brad Wall, the premier of Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin's home province of Saskatchewan, once defended the senator's time spent in the province. Now he calls for the abolition of the Senate. (February 28, 2013) [Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press File Photo]

OTTAWA—For those bending in the headwinds of the Senate spending scandal — from the prime minister on down — there is every reason to brace for another ferocious gust about to blow.
That is an ill wind coming in from Wadena.
There is every reason to believe that a pending audit of Saskatchewan Senator Pamela Wallin’s expenses promises to be an epic chapter in an unfolding scandal which has already destabilized Stephen Harper and his government, cost the job of the prime minister’s chief of staff Nigel Wright, led to a likely RCMP probe and pushed Wallin and one-time colleague Mike Duffy out of the Conservative caucus.

INTERACTIVE View Senators' expenses

In anticipation of more grim news, Wallin’s former colleagues in both the House of Commons and the Senate are hardening their position on the former broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient, promoting a narrative they want in the public discourse. At the same time, they have come together to blunt any move by Duffy to try to take others down with him on his way out the door.
Those who once lauded the duo have pivoted in a bid to salvage their own reputations and putting as much distance between them and the toxic pair as possible.
Harper, once a staunch defender of Wallin and her travel expenses, struck a much different tone this week about the woman he appointed in 2008 and who now sits as an independent, bereft of allies.

“She obviously will not be readmitted (to Conservative caucus) unless those matters are resolved,” he said. “If she has in any way acted improperly, she will be subject to the appropriate authorities and the consequences for those actions.”
Brad Wall, the premier of Wallin’s home province of Saskatchewan, once defended the senator’s time spent in the province. Now he calls for the abolition of the Senate.
Colleagues in the Senate, of either political stripe, are eager to tell tales of Wallin’s imperious style as a committee chair, her refusal to hear witnesses, her decision to quash biparty motions for hearings, her ruthlessness with the gavel.
They will tell you about her treatment of her staff, her over weaning ambition, they will whisper that there is a pattern of wanton spending in her previous posts.
Senate expense reports show that from Sept. 1, 2010, to the end of February this year, Wallin claimed $30,238 for “regular” travel from Ottawa to her Saskatchewan home, but $321,842 for “other” travel, leading to charges she has been billing the Senate for corporate travel.

But they won’t explain how Wallin has been allowed to pay back more than $40,000 in expenses in two separate payments while she is the subject of an audit.
Wallin did not return a call seeking comment.
A repayment of expenses while under investigation does nothing to absolve one of wrongdoing, just as the Duffy repayment of $90,000 — even if it had been his own money — does not scrub clean his stain.
The Senate is setting itself up for the same type of questions that gave the Duffy spending scandal such oxygen — who has tipped her to the audit findings, who is allowing her to have these kicks at replenishing the public coffer, and why, after giving Duffy a break because the money was repaid, would they be giving the same opportunity to Wallin?
As for Duffy and any fear that he may know where the bodies are buried, his one-time allies are clearly prepared to target his credibility. It’s an easy target.

Should he make any allegations as the plank shortens, they will paint him as a serial prevaricator with a curious cash flow problem always looking to line his pockets.
Senator David Tkachuk, one of the whitewashers of the original Duffy audit report, now tells reporters, “Of course (Duffy) was lying.”
E-mails obtained by the CBC Thursday in which Duffy is seen to be seeking guidance on obtaining a cabinet post and an expanded role funded by the Conservative party played into the growing portrait of a man gaming the system for personal gain.
“He’s delusional,” said Marjory LeBreton, government leader in the Senate, who said she was never approached by Duffy with such a scheme.
Others have mocked Duffy for having a part-time staffer fall on her sword for him. Diane Scharf went public in the Ottawa Citizen this week in a bid to corroborate Duffy’s earlier contention that he claimed $85 per diems for Ottawa work while in Florida because of her clerical error.
The takedown of Duffy and Wallin has just begun. It is either take down, or be dragged down with them.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Twitter:@nutgraf1


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