Senate goes to court to withhold report

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OTTAWA – While the Senate leadership has pledged a new spirit of transparency, its lawyers are in court fighting to block the release of a potentially damaging internal document.

The fraud and breach of trust trial of Sen. Mike Duffy has paused briefly so the judge can hear arguments on why the document should be released.

The document is a never-before-seen internal audit conducted by a senior Senate official in early 2013, in the wake of questions about senators claiming living expenses for homes in Ottawa.

The official had been reviewing the residency status of senators and she identified that seemed to be a lack of criteria for establishing what constituted residency.

The Senate — under the authority of Speaker Leo Housakos — is now saying that audit should not be released because of parliamentary privilege or immunity.

Duffy’s lawyer Peter Doody argues the report doesn’t meet the threshold for a privileged document and besides, the Senate has seemed to waive that immunity when it comes to other documents at the Duffy trial.