Senators poised to pass judgment on colleagues embroiled in expense scandal

OTTAWA – After weeks of emotional and often explosive debate, senators gather today to finally determine the fate of their embattled colleagues Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin.

The vote on a government motion to suspend the trio without pay — but with their health, dental and insurance benefits intact — is scheduled to take place at 5:30 p.m. ET.

The suspensions would last for the duration of the parliamentary session, which could continue for the next two years.

A motion to end debate on the controversy passed easily Monday by a vote of 51-34, with five Conservatives breaking ranks with the government — a likely sign that the suspension motion itself will pass easily.

Late Monday, Brazeau made a last-ditch, emotional appeal for senators to reconsider his case, arguing that he’s the victim of what he called “a shameless farce,” a “show trial” and a “gong show.”

And today, a letter was released that reveals the RCMP is seeking copies of emails and documents cited by Duffy that “may potentially be evidence of criminal wrongdoing by others,” including some in the Prime Minister’s Office.

In particular, investigators are looking for emails related to a “script” Duffy said he was given by the PMO — a false story about taking out a bank loan to repay $90,000 in disallowed expenses.

Nigel Wright, Harper’s former chief of staff, personally gave Duffy $90,000 to repay his expenses. Harper claims Wright acted alone and that he knew nothing about the transaction, although as many as a dozen other PMO staffers and top party officials did know about it.

Duffy has alleged that Wright, under instruction from the prime minister to make a political embarrassment go away, orchestrated a “monstrous” conspiracy to cover up the transaction.

On Monday night, however, it was Brazeau who provided fresh drama with a late-night speech in the Senate chamber that left staff members sitting in the gallery in tears.

He bitterly denounced former Conservative colleagues — particularly former government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton and internal economy committee members David Tkachuk and Carolyn Stewart Olsen — for conspiring to run him out of the Senate, for misrepresenting the findings of an independent audit which found no wrongdoing on his part, for repeatedly ignoring his pleas for due process and spreading rumours about his troubled personal life.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m still a human being and I deserve at least some level of respect,” he told the upper house as the debate dragged on toward midnight.

His voice choking with emotion as he made what will likely be his last speech in the Senate, Brazeau directed some remarks to his children.

“You are too young to understand what is going on here. I am much older than you and I barely understand,” he said.

“It is very important that you understand that I am not guilty of what some of these people are accusing me of. It is very important that you know that I am not a thief, a scammer, a drunken Indian, a drug addict, a failed experiment or a human tragedy.”

In the House of Commons, meanwhile, Liberals will introduce a motion today instructing the Commons ethics committee to hold televised hearings into the PMO’s conduct in the payment of Duffy’s disallowed expense claims — including calling Harper to testify under oath.

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