Plans are proceeding to suspend three Canadian senators involved in a scandal over "inappropriate" expense claims.
Government motions to suspend Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin, all former Conservatives appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, will be discussed in the coming week.
If approved, the action would stop their pay, benefits and Senate resources for the rest of the parliamentary session, potentially as long as two years.
Mac Harb, a former Liberal senator also with improper expenses, resigned last month and repaid $231,649.
The nonelected upper chamber is "within its rights" to take disciplinary action against the senators for "gross negligence,"said government Senate leader Claude Carignan.
Just before the announcement, Duffy said he was taking a doctor-ordered medical leave because of a heart condition, but Carignan said it would have no impact on his potential suspension.
A police investigation continues into fraud and breach-of-trust allegations against Brazeau, Duffy and Harb while a review is underway into Wallin's expense claims.
Wallin has paid back $138,969, Duffy reimbursed $90,172 and Brazeau owes $48,744.
'Throne speech' lays out plans at mid-term
Assuring Canadians the work continues toward a balanced federal budget, parliamentarians got back to work with the Conservative government's "throne speech."
Governor General David Johnson delivered the speech outlining the government's plans at mid-term that include mandatory balanced-budget legislation.
Also planned are further reducing the size and cost of government, improving job training and getting tougher on crime including cyberbullying.
There was a hint of abolishing the Senate and help for consumers dealing with high-cost cellphone roaming fees, bundled cable and satellite TV packages and cracking down on "predatory" payday lenders.
News in brief
• A tentative free-trade deal with the European Union will give the Canadian economy a $12-billion boost and create 80,000 new jobs, Prime Minister Harper said Friday. The deal will open markets and drop nearly all import taxes on products including cars and food. Combined with the North American Free Trade Agreement, Canada will have preferential access to more than half of the world's economy. "This is the biggest deal our country has ever made," Harper said in Brussels.
• John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, imprisoned in Egypt without charge for seven weeks, returned to Canada greeted with cheers and applause at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. After their release from prison, they had to remain in the country for five days waiting for permission to leave. They were arrested during anti-government demonstrations in Cairo while en route to a "medical mission" in Gaza.
Facts and figures
Canada's dollar has advanced to 97.18 cents U.S. while the U.S. dollar returns $1.0289 in Canadian funds, before bank exchange fees.
The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.
Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 13,129 points and the TSX Venture index at 949 points.
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• Five police vehicles were torched and native protesters arrested while opposing shale gas exploration near Rexton, New Brunswick. David Coon, leader of the province's Green party, said the residents want to "protect their right to safe water and the well-being of their communities through peaceful civil disobedience." Sympathy protests were staged by native groups blocking roads across the country.
• The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has issued its fourth recent beef recall over E. coli contamination. Alerts concern Kirkland Signature lean and organic ground beef from Costco in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Also recalled were Compliments Super 8 Beef Burgers from Sobeys, Foodland, Freshco and Price Chopper in Ontario and Atlantic Canada. Listed also were President's Choice Beef Burgers and Webers Bucket of Burgers at Loblaw stores across Canada. • Three remaining elephants at the Toronto Zoo have been sent to a PAWS animal sanctuary in California. Toka, Thika and Iringa are being trucked to their new home after animal rights activists, including TV's Bob Barker, voiced concern for the welfare of the three aging elephants living in the cold climate.
Jim Fox can be reached at [email protected]