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NEWS: Harper’s $7 million mistake with Patrick Brazeau

Harper-appointed Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau spent last night in police custody after he was arrested in Gatineau, Quebec following an alleged domestic assault and sexual assault. Brazeau has been a controversial figure since Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him to the Senate. The CBC reports:

– “Before he was appointed to the Senate, Brazeau was the head of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the national organization that represents off-reserve aboriginals.” After his appointment, Brazeau indicated that he planned to stay on in that role and collect that six-figure salary as well as a senator’s annual base salary of $132,300.

– “Last November, a media report said Brazeau was claiming a Senate living allowance despite spending most of his time in the National Capital Region. Senators can claim up to $21,000 a year if they live primarily more than 100 kilometres away from the Ottawa-Gatineau region. The report said Brazeau claimed he lived in Maniwaki, Que., but his primary residence is in Gatineau.”

– “Brazeau (who according to news reports drives a Porsche SUV) has also reportedly fallen behind on child support payments several times, with the most recent report saying the Quebec government garnisheed his salary to get the money.”

– “Last summer Brazeau took to Twitter to insult a journalist, rhyming her name with a demeaning word. The journalist (Jennifer Ditchburn) had reported that Brazeau had the worst attendance record in the Senate.” Brazeau Tweeted, “Change the D to a B in your last name and we’re even!” Beyond his poor attendance in the Senate, between June 2011 and April 2012, he missed 65 per cent of the meetings of the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples on which he sits.

– “Recently, Brazeau was a vocal critic of the Idle No More movement, and made disparaging remarks about Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s recent hunger strike.” Last week, Brazeau mocked Chief Spence at a Conservative Party gathering in an Ottawa suburb saying, “I was sick two weeks ago. I had the flu and I lost five pounds. I look at Miss Spence, when she started her hunger strike, and now?”

Having used Brazeau to push Conservative views about First Nations, Harper has now abandoned him. Yesterday, Harper stated during Question Period, “I think that it’s known that in light of the serious events that have been reported today, I have removed Senator Brazeau from the Conservative caucus.” Harper’s Senate leader Marjory LeBreton reportedly sent a letter to Brazeau’s office and caucus members earlier that day announcing his removal from the caucus.

But it should also be noted that Harper’s decision in December 2008 to appoint the then-34 year old Brazeau to the Senate now comes with a price-tag of $7 million over the next 35 years, according to NDP critic Charlie Angus. Liberal Senator Lillian Dyck, a Cree from the Gordon First Nation, has stated, “It looks like (Mr. Harper) made a very poor choice. The evidence shows it was a poor choice.”

It should also be remembered, as reported by the Toronto Star, that, “When Brazeau was appointed (to the Senate), the Conservative government already knew then-Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice had received letters from aboriginal leaders in this country questioning the membership and spending of the organization Brazeau headed (involving a Health Canada audit). The prime minister’s office (also) knew (Brazeau) was facing a charge of sexual harassment (against an employee at the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples).”