Senator Mike Duffy's lawyer came out with guns blazing Monday, accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his staff of scapegoating the beleaguered senator over unclear expense rules and guidelines.
"From the get-go, rather than letting the truth out, that there are flaws in the Senate system and rules, it's the old story," lawyer Donald Bayne lashed out in what became an hour-long rant in defence of his client. "The cover-up is always more damaging than the original issue."
Bayne says Duffy never filed any improper expense claims, and acted in accordance with the established guidelines through communications with senior Tory officials. The biggest issue at stake, Duffy's designation of a house in Prince Edward Island as his primary residence, was originally cleared by the PMO as early as 2009.
Through his lawyer, Duffy has gone on the offensive in light of a motion Tuesday to suspend him and colleagues Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau from the Senate without pay despite the fact that separate RCMP investigations into their expenditures have not concluded.
According to Bayne, the PMO pressured Duffy to repay four years worth of housing expenses or lose his seat.
"The threat seems obvious: you take the dive, or this sub-committee will throw you out on the residency issue before you've had any kind of hearing," Bayne said.
For his part, Harper defended during Question Period on Monday:
"The position of the government as I've said repeatedly is that we expect all parliamentarians to respect the rules regarding expenditure, not just the letter but the spirit of those rules, and if they don't respect those rules they will suffer the consequences and be held accountable."
Despite Harper's best efforts to evade the ongoing Senate expenses controversy — proroguing Parliament until October and trying to focus attention on his historic free trade agreement with Europe — it's clear the scandal is not going away quietly.
But is it enough to bring down the Conservative government?
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- Politics & Government
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper