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Senate shoots down senator's plan to use office budget for harassment victims' legal fees

Senate shoots down senator's plan to use office budget for harassment victims' legal fees
From CBC - February 13, 2018

The senator who planned to use part of her office budget tocover the legal bills ofstaffers harassed by members of the Red Chamber will have to find another way to offer that sort ofsupport, a spokesperson for the Senate told CBC News Monday.

The Senate's all-powerful internal economy committee has ruled that the use of publicfunds to pay the legal fees of a third party is not permissible under Senaterulesand ifan expense claim were to be filed for such a requestit would be rejected.

Independent Manitoba Sen. Marilou McPhedran said last week she would use part of her budget allocated for research and hiring contractorsto retain Ottawa-based human rights lawyer Anne Levesque to provide counsel tothose past and current staffers who have faced harassment in the Senate, allowing themto take on their abusers.

'They are not going to mess it up for all those survivors out there.' - Independent Manitoba Sen. Marilou McPhedran

McPhedran set up a confidential email account so these staffers could reach out to herdirectly. She offered to serve as asort ofinterlocutor between survivors of such abuse and Levesque, or to simply lend an ear to those who wanted to talk about their experiences in the Red Chamber.

"Senate policies provide that senators may retain the services of contractors to support them in their parliamentary functions.This would not include paying legal fees for third parties," Alison Korn, a spokesperson for the Senate's internal economy committee, said in an emailed statement to CBC News.

"We have asked Sen. McPhedran to clarify exactly how Senate funds will be used for the purposes of her endeavour."

The rules are quite clear: Senate resources are to be used by senators for the sole purpose of carrying out their parliamentary functions.

Parliamentary functions are defined in theSenate Administrative Rules (SARS) as "duties and activities related to the position of a senator, wherever performed, including public and official business and partisan matters, but excluding activities related to the election of a member of the House of Commons during an election under the Canada Elections Act; or the private business interests of a senator or a member of a senator's family or household."

McPhedran said she was toldSaturday theSenate would not allow her to use her office budget to cover the costs of a legal consultation.

McPhedransaid she still believes she has the right to use her Senate resources for this purpose. "If I had the time, and if I were prepared to step away from the promises I made to survivors, then I'd go back into full appeal mode, because I think they are wrong,"she toldCBCNews.

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