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article imageUnethical behaviour: Gordon Barnhart asked to identify Senators Special

By André R. Gignac     May 23, 2013 in Politics
Ottawa - Senator Marjory LeBreton says former Clerk of the Senate Gordon Barnhart was "absolutely right" when he revealed disturbing tendencies on the part of some Senators, and Senator Gerald Comeau wants the names.
Following the allegations made by former Clerk of the Senate Gordon Barnhart that some Canadian senators were decidedly not troubled if they committed unethical acts during his time with the Senate, the current Leader of the Government in the Senate, Marjory LeBreton, has confirmed to Digital Journal that it was indeed the case. “Gordon is absolutely right!” she wrote in an e-mail.
At one point during an interview on CBC, Gordon Barnhart remembered this about some senators: “I used to say to them: Well, you can’t do that because it’s immoral, or unethical, or illegal, and they’d say: No, that doesn’t matter, we’re not accountable. And I’d say: What would happen if you were on CBC News or on the front page of the Globe and Mail? , and they’d say: Well, that doesn’t matter, because the people can’t remove us, the prime minister can’t remove us”.
In her reaction, Senator LeBreton (Conservative, Ontario) was clear: “I have heard many Senators over the years say those exact words”. The Senator, who remembers Gordon Barnhart as “a great Clerk”, went on to say that she spoke “about this very attitude” in the Senate a couple of days ago.
Senator LeBreton is one of 12 senators currently serving who were also present in the Red Chamber between 1989 and 1994, when Gordon Barnhart, who had been appointed by former prime minister Brian Mulroney, was trying to bring some changes to a certain “culture”. But part of his job was left undone, “because the senators themselves did not want the changes”.
Digital Journal has tried to reach all 12 senators who were present at the time of Mr. Barnhart to obtain their reaction. That of Senator Gerald Comeau (Conservative, Nova Scotia) was short: “If certain Senators made such awful comments, he [Mr. Barnhart] should name the Senators.”
For his part, Senator David Tkachuk (Conservative, Saskatchewan) remembers he was sworn in by Mr. Barnhart. “I know and like Gordon Barnhart.” But he said he did not have “this type of discussion” with him, “nor have I ever heard those kinds of comments from a fellow Conservative Senator”.
The other nine senators currently serving who were present at the time of Mr. Barnhart’s tenure are Raynell Andreychuk (Conservative, Saskatchewan); Anne C. Cools (Independent, Ontario); Pierre De Bané (Liberal, Québec); Janis G. Johnson (Conservative, Manitoba); Colin Kenny (Liberal, Ontario); Noël A. Kinsella (Conservative, New Brunswick); Donald H. Oliver (Conservative, Nova Scotia); Jean-Claude Rivest (Independent, Québec), and Charlie Watt (Liberal, Québec). They were all appointed by either of former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
UPDATE (May 24) - In an e-mail, Senator Charlie Watt (Liberal, Québec) said he is "disappointed to hear the comments of Mr. Barnhart", and adds that he himself "never had such conversation with that former Clerk of the Senate".
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