This article was originally published in Maclean's Magazine on September 23, 2013
In October 2001, mere weeks after undergoing surgery for colorectal cancer, Pamela Wallin had returned to her busy-bee self—out on a national book tour promoting Speaking of Success: Collected Wisdom, Insights and Reflections, culled from interviews she’d conducted with everyone from Margaret Atwood to Henry Kissinger. Success had few better ambassadors at that time than the self-styled small-town gal made good from Wadena, Sask. Wallin had worked her way up from CBC Radio in Regina to the Toronto Star to co-host CTV’s Canada AM, then ran its Ottawa political bureau. In the 1990s, she headed to CBC-TV, where she was the first woman to co-anchor the nightly national news. In a country that confers more celebrity on people who read the news than those who make it, Wallin was a superstar, unable to walk down the street without being stopped and fawned over. She also didn’t shy away from being the news herself, most famously in 1988 when she asked then Liberal leader John Turner if he had a drinking problem. Her public image dovetailed with perceived Canuck values: hard-working, decent, down-to-earth, middlebrow, popular, nice. In 1994, her proud hometown renamed its main drag in her honour.
The nation rooted for her when Wallin was unceremoniously dumped by the CBC in 1995, and again when she confronted the Big C in 2001. By the time she was shilling her book about success—a bestseller—she’d reinvented herself yet again as Pamela Wallin, Inc., an entrepreneur selling Pamela Wallin the brand. Her production company produced her popular interview show Pamela Wallin Live along with more commercial fare, including the pilot for a Canadian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire that never took off. Wallin also was an in-demand headliner, hosting “cultural weekends” in Ontario cottage country with her old friend Garth Drabinksy and appearing as an emcee and speaker. “Canada’s Oprah,” the Ottawa Citizen gushed.
She loved being her own boss, Wallin told January magazine: “Getting fired, for me, was absolutely the best thing that ever happened.” She vowed her days working in big organizations were over: “I didn’t like working in bureaucracies and in structures that were filled with committees and where old boys’ gangs made the decisions.”
Twelve years later those words take on ironic resonance. For Wallin’s attempt to run her own show in the country’s biggest old boys’ gang of all, the Senate, has plunged her into a scandal that threatens both her reputation and the red chamber. An external audit combed over in Canada the way the Starr Report was in the U.S. found $138,970 of $532,508 in expenses Wallin billed to the Senate for travel were improper: it was deemed personal or related to Conservative party business. Expenses were filed for a speech she didn’t give; her appointment calendar had been altered. (Wallin said Sen. David Tkachuk, who chaired the audit committee, told her to remove “irrelevant, private and personal” information; Tkachuk denied that, and said he told her “keep her calendar clean.”) Of 94 flights Wallin took, only 11 of them were direct between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, the province she represents; often she spent multiple nights in Toronto between flights. The revelation that Wallin spends most of her time in Toronto, though she owns a house in Wadena, has given rise to unresolved questions about her residency.
A glimpse into Wallin’s “networking events” billed to the Senate revealed a peripatetic life rich in activities designed to burnish the Pamela Wallin brand. There were award lunches, a meeting to discuss her buying a business “promoting women of influence,” dinners with prominent business players, soirees where some rich guy was given a philanthropy award, interviews with a journalist. Wallin also billed travel to the University of Guelph when she was chancellor. Between air travel and Town cars, Wallin’s feet rarely touched pavement.
Wallin apologized publicly, saying there was no attempt to mislead. But she showed a decided lack of contrition: she called Deloitte’s audit process “fundamentally flawed and unfair” and defined herself as “an activist senator—one who saw it as her job to advance causes that are important to Canadians.” She noted expenses previously approved were disallowed and she blasted “some arbitrary and undefined sense of what constitutes ‘Senate business’ or ‘common Senate practice.’ ” Wallin, who is divorced and has no children, has promised to repay the amount with interest. She has repaid more than $38,000; last week she was told to deliver another $100,600 by Sept. 16 or see her wages garnisheed.
For a woman whose work is her life, the total tally has been far higher: In May she was turfed from the Conservative caucus and now sits as an Independent alongside the disgraced Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau. The travel she can claim has been restricted and her file has been transferred to the RCMP for investigation. Wallin has stepped down from lucrative positions on corporate boards. (In 2012, she pulled in $68,202 in directors fees from Gluskin Sheff alone.) She has put her New York co-op on the market for $349,000, for less than she paid in 2005. Many who bought into Pamela Wallin, the lucrative brand, have turned. People make oinking noises at her in airports, reports Alison Squires, publisher of the Wadena News . Wallin’s transgressions are seen differently than those of Mike Duffy, who abused the Senate housing allowance, then was handed a $90,000 cheque from Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright. “What Duffy did seems deliberate,” says a man who knows her. “I’m angry with Duffy; I’m disappointed in Pam.”
Friends of Wallin counter that she was doing her job as she understood it. (Wallin did not respond to Maclean’s requests for an interview.) “She was appointed because she was Pam Wallin. And you’re Pam Wallin 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says Shelley Ambrose, co-publisher of the Walrus magazine and Wallin’s right hand in New York. “Senate business to Pamela is everything she’s doing because she’s 24-7. She’s a total workaholic. She will go anywhere she’s invited—five things a night; she thinks it’s her duty. She doesn’t have the luxury of saying, “Oh, I’m at this dinner party and I’m not a senator right now.”
Even Wallin’s most vocal critics, both Liberals and Conservatives, don’t believe she set out to abuse the system. “She was just carrying on being Pamela,” says a Conservative senator. But her diva ways alienated many—senators and, more lethally, her own staff. “The knives were out,” says one. Ambrose blames Stephen Harper, who appointed Wallin and Duffy for their marquee value: “He knew who she was. He knew she had a big apartment in Toronto. He wanted her to lobby for him. And she did. She defended the PM and his policies wherever she went—a dinner party in Toronto or a barbecue in Saskatoon.”
Now, ironically, the public profile that made Wallin useful to the Harper government renders her beneficial in another way: as a bigger symbol of Senate malfeasance than the rogue’s gallery of senators—Michel Cogger, Andrew Thompson, Eric Berntson, et al.—all guilty of greater offences. She has become target practice for calls for Senate reform or elimination. Wallin is being singled out, says Ambrose: “What they’re having to do is attack Pam’s character—Pamela is bad, Pamela screwed the system. They’re distancing her from the Prime Minister and Conservatives and from the Senate.”
Sen. Anne Cools, who sits as an Independent, has respect for Wallin: “She has worked hard as a senator,” she says. But she, like others in the Senate, was surprised by Wallin’s rabid support of the Harper government: “She embraced partisanship pretty quickly and pretty comprehensively,” she says. “But she set out to serve.” On that latter point, there is little dispute. Just whom Pamela Wallin was serving is the question.
Catastrophe prefaced Wallin’s entrance to public service. Ground Zero was still smouldering when Wallin was recruited to host “Canada loves New York,” an event to pay homage “to the magic and resilience of New York” and the 24 Canadians killed on 9/11. Tens of thousands of Canadians, including prime minister Jean Chrétien, filled the Roseland Ballroom in the city’s theatre district for the one-day event spearheaded by then minister of foreign affairs John Manley, senator Jerry Grafstein and various Canadian luminaries. Wallin nimbly marshalled homegrown talent—tenor Ben Heppner, fiddler Natalie MacMaster, David Letterman’s bandleader Paul Shaffer—as they belted out American tunes and serenaded mayor Rudy Giuliani with O Canada .
Watching Wallin in action, the Liberals saw political opportunity—that the charismatic broadcaster could be effective raising Canada’s profile in the U.S. as consul general to New York, a plum posting traditionally held by career civil servants. Wallin jumped when Chrétien offered the job in June 2002. “Pamela always wanted to serve her country,” says long-time friend Patsy Pehleman, her former producer. “She gets it from her dad, who was in the Air Force. She’s a total daddy’s girl.”
The four-year gig came with a Park Avenue residence with a view of the park, a cook, a housekeeper and a driver. It was a style Wallin aspired to in Toronto, where she was ferried about by Town cars that waited while she attended dinner parties. “She would tell you the Town car is cheaper than driving her own car,” says Pehleman, who speaks fondly of Wallin’s Auntie Mame -style extravagance: “She’s the most generous person I know.”
Wallin’s send-off by Toronto’s elite—judges, CEOs, media titans, politicians—received giddy coverage. The Toronto Star likened her appointment to a coronation: “A high-profile member of the town’s media elite has now been elevated to a position of virtual royalty. No wonder a lot of people are more eager to be Wallin’s close friend.” One party was thrown for her by Ivan Fecan, then president and CEO of Bell Globemedia at Toronto’s York Club, attended by Chrétien.
The New York post proved a perfect mesh with Wallin’s social networking acumen. She was tireless, says Ken Ottenbreit, a New York-based, Regina-born lawyer who was president of the Canadian Association of New York at the time. “I don’t think there was anything I asked her to do that she didn’t show up for, whether it was to speak at a lunch or start the Terry Fox Run in Central Park.” Wallin was highly visible, he says: “She thrived on the energy and brought a star quality and profile to events we hadn’t seen before. I’m sure some in the foreign service didn’t like that she’d changed the game.”
Wallin liked to say her role was to debunk “myths of Mounties, manners and maple syrup.” She held “salons”—book launches for Conrad Black and the like and discussions with famous architects—Daniel Libeskind, Bruce Kuwabara and Jack Diamond. She was front and centre with Canadian 9/11 families at the anniversary memorial. It was a tense time, with Canada-U.S. relations strained by the war in Iraq. Wallin regularly appeared on Fox News as Canada’s voice.
The real job of consul general, however, is to fuel commerce, says Ambrose: “Our job was money, our job was the economy, our job was trade.” Culture was the lure. “Pam was brilliant. She would take 20 people from Wall Street to see Christopher Plummer in King Lear at Lincoln Center with a reception at the residence. She’d get six hours with them whereas other consul generals wouldn’t get a meeting. We’d invite key Canadian guests; that’s how real relationships happen.”
Ambrose dismisses rumblings that Wallin’s expenses were higher than other diplomats: “Throwing parties was her job. The bait was Paul Shaffer, the bait was Christopher Plummer, the bait was Oscar Peterson. It’s who we got in the room to see them and what we did with them after that mattered.”
Wallin also worked hard to remain in the public eye in Canada, returning several times a month to the midtown Toronto condo she’d bought in December 2002 for $787,000. She was a fixture at galas—the Giller, Canadian Film Centre events, Drabinksy’s wedding in May 2005. She maintained her daughter-of-Saskatchewan profile, appearing at the Centennial Gala in Saskatoon in 2005 and in a cameo on the sitcom Corner Gas playing herself. In the scene, she filches a chocolate bar from the gas station, a joke that played off her sterling reputation.
Meanwhile, Wallin added foreign policy to her brand. Her stump speech, “Canada-U.S. relations: A view from New York” put her in front of corporations eager to hear her take on “the highly integrated nature of our economies” and “the need to get “beyond stereotypes.” Kitchener, Ont.-based Communitech brought her in to speak at their annual general meeting in 2003. The next year, Wallin was presented with the “OPAS Visionary Award” by a Bell subsidiary at the University of Toronto, broadcast to over 30 Canadian universities. Wallin fused the consulate’s brand with her own, her predecessor Michael Phillips, observed: “Her face is the face of the consulate,” he told the Globe and Mail in 2003, noting he and his predecessor George Haynal “both spent a lot of time branding the place, but not personally . . . Pamela had a public face in Canada, and it’s not a bad idea to try to transfer it down to New York.”
The election of a Conservative government in January 2006 put pressure on Chrétien-appointed diplomats to exit. Wallin held fast until her term ended in July. By then she was networking for her next gig, says a New Yorker who knew her: “She was able to get herself plugged into a very high level of New York society.” She’d emerged as a credible voice on the think-tank circuit, sitting on a C.D. Howe roundtable with diplomats on U.S. border security.
Wallin received a hero’s welcome on her return—with Bay Street, politicians, media and government vying for her attention. Columnist Allan Fotheringham, an old pal, suggested she run for office: “How about a Liberal candidate for the Commons from her prairie province, where she is a local girl idol from TV and then Manhattan?”
Wallin’s sights were higher. She became bi-border, travelling between Toronto and New York, where she worked three days a week as “senior adviser, Canadian affairs” for Susan Segal, the president of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas (AS/COA), a free-trade advocacy organization that counts large U.S. corporations among its members. Wallin held the position from August 2006 until December 2010, a year into her Senate tenure.
Wallin’s New York sojourn conferred blue-chip credibility. Before, her directorships comprised a short stint in 2002 on the board of Visual Bible International Inc., an outfit that produced Bible-themed DVDs. Post-New York, she was a get for Bell Globemedia, wealth-management company Gluskin Sheff, Oilsands Quest (a company involved in oil sands permits and licences in Saskatchewan and Alberta), Porter Airlines, and Jade Tower, Inc., a wireless infrastructure start-up. Non-profits and charities conscripted her; universities lined up to confer honorary degrees; everyone wanted her to mediate panels. In 2007, Wallin was named chancellor of the University of Guelph, appointed to the Order of Canada, and appeared on a “women of influence” speaking tour that featured Cherie Booth Blair, actress Sigourney Weaver and Margaret Trudeau. By then, Stephen Harper, who’d wanted her out of New York, could also see her utility and appointed her to the “independent panel on Canada’s future role in Afghanistan” chaired by John Manley and manned by former Conservative power players: Jake Epp, Paul Tellier and former Canadian ambassador to the U.S. Derek Burney. Harper extolled the group’s “wealth of experience in foreign affairs,” noting “each one of them has demonstrated their commitment to Canada through years of public service.” He added: “I have no doubt they will examine the issues honestly, fairly, and expertly, and offer wise, impartial counsel that will help.”
Not everyone agreed. In an Ottawa Citizen op-ed, Michael Byers, Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law at University of British Columbia, explained he turned down an invitation to appear before the panel because he saw it as biased. All of the panel members are supporters of close economic and political ties with the U.S, with some having direct links to defence industry, he said. “It would be difficult to find five people more likely to recommend an extension of the mission,” he wrote. (The panel recommended Canada’s military remain in Afghanistan beyond February 2009, contingent on 1,000 troops sent by NATO and/or other allies—and that the government secure new helicopters and high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles before that date.)
In December 2008, Harper named her to the Senate.
Wallin’s entry to the chamber of sober second thought was rocky. She got heat for taking the position from some friends who reminded her of her arrival in Ottawa in her 20s as a member of the Waffle, a hard-left NDP faction. There was surprise that the former Chrétien appointee was conscripted by the Conservatives. Yet the alliance with Harper made sense to some. “Pam’s socially extremely liberal,” Ambrose says. “But being a Conservative where money, military and Afghanistan are concerned didn’t surprise me.” She was a big fan of Harper, and becoming close to Laureen Harper, says Pehleman. There were also questions raised about whether Wallin met the residency requirements to represent a province she hadn’t lived in full-time for decades. Wallin responded by saying she’d resign her seat and run as a candidate when Saskatchewan introduces elections for the Senate.
Far smoother was Wallin’s star turn on the 2011 election campaign where she herself was “bait.” She headlined $100-a-plate fundraising dinners and tirelessly stumped for federal candidates as well as for Brad Wall’s Saskatchewan Party. In a speech given in Moose Jaw MP Ray Boughen’s riding, Wallin told the crowd: “You’re going to hear a pretty partisan set of comments,” then went on to say that then NDP leader Jack Layton did not want an election because “his wife [MP Olivia Chow] doesn’t qualify for her parliamentary pension yet.”
“It wasn’t just the PM who benefited from Pam’s advocacy and defense—so did a lot of federal and provincial politicians,” says Ambrose. “Those people loved to keep Pam nice and close; she was their bright and shiny thing. She could fill a room.” And she did, headlining for MPs Lynne Yelich, Brad Trost, Maurice Vellacott and Kelly Block along with Ontario MPPs Rob Milligan and Lisa MacLeod. In May 2011 Wallin and immigration minister Jason Kenney discussed “Secrets from the federal campaign trail’’ at an Ontario pre-election convention.
But Wallin’s lustre soon began to fade, even with Conservatives. “In the beginning a lot of them were happy to have her because she was high profile and did a lot of work in the election,” says a Liberal senator. “But she seemed to think she was much more important than everyone.” A friend recalls meeting Wallin for a drink shortly after her Senate appointment. “She said, ‘All the senators are farmers from wherever, they don’t understand their job. I understand Canada and politics more than anyone.’ And it’s true: she does.”
Wallin’s well-developed sense of self-worth could grate. Eyes rolled when she spoke up against Liberal Sen. Céline Hervieux-Payette’s bill advocating gender parity on corporate boards in June 2010. She claimed her board appointments had nothing to do with her being a woman: “Perhaps I am just kidding myself, and I do not think so, but I think the reason I sit on some of those boards is because I bring a skill set to the table and not because of my gender—at least I hope not.”
Wallin’s talk about how busy she was, dashing off to moderate a 2010 Q&A with Sarah Palin in Calgary for the Fraser Institute, also put people off, says one senator: “She’d say, ‘My friends say, “I live in airplanes.” ’ It was like the Senate was functioning as her travel agency.”
At times, Wallin’s competing interests piled up. In 2011, she helped defeat the Climate Change Accountability Act, a private member’s bill that called for major greenhouse gas cuts by 2020. Because she sat on the board of Oilsands Quest, the question of potential conflict of interest was raised. A Senate inquiry exonerated her but there were still rumblings she should have recused herself, says one senator. Her vote also caused ripples at the University of Guelph, known for its green identity. Though its chancellor, Wallin declined to be interviewed by the campus paper. Instead, she sent a letter, blaming, but also boasting of, her busy schedule: “I have family and Senate duties and responsibilities and volunteer work such as serving as chancellor of the University of Guelph. I serve on several corporate boards, chair the national security and defence Senate committee and sit on three others, and travel extensively—and I am now doing this in a wheelchair, as I broke my foot recently . . . ” The message was at a disconnect from her former journalist self who wrote about “the public’s right to know” in her 1998 memoir Since You Asked. Wallin presented herself as a role model: “I trust—and hope—that my busy life can serve as an example to today’s students who will be tomorrow’s leaders.” Soon after, she stepped down as chancellor, citing workload.
It would be committee work, the soul of the Senate, that led to Wallin’s greatest personal conflicts. Upon arrival she was appointed to the veterans affairs, foreign affairs and international trade committees. She was also named deputy chair of the national security and defence committee, which had garnered headlines over the past decade for exposing gaps in airport and seaport security as well as emergency preparedness. Under long-time chair Colin Kenny, a Liberal, the committee provided critical analysis of the Afghan war effort and exposed serious problems within the RCMP, the state of Canada-U.S. border security and resources in the Arctic. Early on Wallin and Kenny clashed. In March 2010, after the Conservatives took control of the Senate, Wallin was named chair, a position she’d lobbied for, say insiders: “It gave her opportunity to hobnob with generals,” says one. (Four months earlier, in November 2009, she was named an honorary colonel in the Air Force.) Kenny, who stepped down from committees for health reasons, spoke to Canadian Press about his frustrations, naming Wallin: after she arrived the committee became “a pain in the ass,” he said.
As committee chair Wallin went to unusual lengths to dismiss government critics. In June 2010, she sent a letter to newspapers complaining that an op-ed by Michael Byers critical of the purchase of F-35 fighter jets did not identify his afﬁliation with the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, “a left-wing peace and social policy think tank that routinely criticizes Canada’s military spending.” Byers says he found the letter “bizarre,” and hypocritical given that Wallin didn’t disclose her position as honorary Air Force colonel or board member of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute, a pro-military organization. “It revealed she was taking the role of senator in a more partisan way.” Yet he says Wallin was an excellent host when he later appeared before the committee to speak about Arctic security. “She was welcoming and charming, and asked good questions.” The reports the committee produced “weren’t earth-shattering but they were competent,” Byers says.
Others expressed concerns that, under Wallin, the committee was shutting down debate on crucial issues. In December 2010, Kenny questioned whether the once-activist committee had been muzzled as part of Harper’s larger communications plan. He pointed out that under Wallin in 2010, the committee produced one major study about Canada’s role in Afghanistan versus the eight far more critical reports issued between April 2008 and March 2009, on such topics as the financial crisis in the military, the myth of security at Canadian airports, and the need to upgrade foreign aid and military strength. In 2009, Kenny noted, his committee sat for 226 hours and heard from 733 witnesses. In 2010, the Wallin-led committee sat for just 45 hours and heard from 57 witnesses. Wallin shot back via the Hill Times: “Honestly, I think Colin is just out of touch.”
Wallin’s imperious ways created frictions, even among Conservatives. “She was not a team player,” says one senator. The term “unilateral” is used to describe her style: “Most of us are partisan, but she would take it to the extreme and do personal attacks,” says another senator. As committee chair, she was known to cut people off and also to be dismissive of Liberal Sen. Roméo Dallaire, the defence committee’s vice-chair. “It was like, ‘He’s a retired general but I’m an honorary colonel,’ ” says one. In her broadcast days, Wallin’s demanding ways earned her the nickname “the Pamatollah.” In the Senate, she was known to counter resistance with the order: “Make it happen!” “Pamela doesn’t suffer fools,” says Pehleman.
Wallin was also known to be tough on staff; she went through more than four assistants in four years. Senators in the Victoria building say they often heard her voice raised.
Within the Senate, it was believed Wallin had ambitions for Marjory LeBreton’s job: government leader in the Senate, a cabinet position. Rumours reached such a fevered pitch that Wallin’s office sent out a denial.
Eventually, Wallin’s rectitude put her at odds with her own caucus. In late 2011, Liberal Sen. Grant Mitchell, a defence committee member, proposed it investigate sexual harassment in the RCMP, a timely subject. “I immediately got resistance [from Wallin],” Mitchell told Maclean’s. In June 2012, Mitchell gave an impassioned speech in the Senate on the topic. Wallin, who was an ambassador for the RCMP Heritage Centre, lashed back: “The committee, while I am chair, will not serve as a forum for people to anecdotally share their experiences without proper legal defence or advice,” she said, accusing Mitchell of “trying to live out some Perry Mason or Jack McCoy fantasy.”
People were appalled by the personal attack, Mitchell says. In fall 2012, he moved a motion for a Senate vote to direct the committee to investigate the RCMP, which had the support of the Conservative caucus and the government. Yet Wallin “dug in her heels and tried to block the motion,” says one senator. “She took on the role of the great defender of the RCMP.” The vote was eventually passed on a day Wallin was out of the Senate. Even then, the committee stalled into 2013, Mitchell says. “We submitted reasonable witnesses. And back comes a list of 15 witnesses—all hers, none ours: 13 are RCMP, one is a minister and one is Treasury Board. There were no victims, no psychologists, no experts on organizational culture, no one from the military. It was breathtaking.” Mitchell says he’s confounded that Wallin would oppose an inquiry into workplace harassment: “I know she’s partial to the military—and particularly to the RCMP. Still, I don’t know why she wouldn’t want to want to jump all over this.”
Days later, in April 2013, Wallin stepped down from all committees, “for personal reasons,” citing illness in her family. By then, the investigation into Wallin’s expenses had moved from the Senate internal economy committee to external auditor Deloitte. What seems to have triggered it was a former executive assistant who’d lasted one month with Wallin. She’d been complaining to Senate administration about the senator’s “sloppy record keeping” in August 2012, says an insider, around the same time Wallin was creating frustration stonewalling a study of the RCMP.
Harper defended Wallin in February 2013, months before the final audit was released, saying he’d “looked at the numbers” and that her “travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time.”
“The process has been carefully orchestrated,” says Ambrose, who notes Wallin’s departure from the caucus on May 17 was timed to the Friday before news of Wright’s resignation broke. “It looks like they were hoping by throwing Pam under the bus, attention would be paid to Pam because she’s Pamela Wallin and not Nigel Wright, but that didn’t work. But it seems to be working now.” Ambrose questions why the Senate audit committee didn’t take Wallin aside in year one: “These very same people gave the auditors the basis for the audit and then they applied a retroactive new rule from 2012 back to 2009.”
A Liberal senator who found Wallin difficult to work with is sympathetic: “She was used by Harper and the candidates and now it’s, ‘No, we didn’t mean you were supposed to claim those expenses.’ ”
The auditor-general is now combing through all senators’ expenses. In July, Marjory LeBreton, the main spokesperson on the Senate scandal, resigned as government leader. Days later, a cabinet shuffle saw the Senate’s connection to cabinet severed. “Marjory LeBreton started a small kitchen-sink fire about Pamela Wallin’s travel expenses and it has turned into a fire that could burn the house down,” says Ambrose.
In 2001, speaking about success, Wallin said the most important element of her own success was “my ability to reinvent, regroup when faced with some kind of crisis or problem.” Her friends, who threw a 60th birthday party for her in April, express faith she will again: “She bounced back from being fired; she bounced back from cancer. She won’t fade into the sunset,” says one. “If anyone can pull off a third act, it’s Pam,” says another.
Wallin spent the summer in Wadena, tending to her ailing parents and “healing the hurt,” says one friend. “She’s heartbroken, says Pehleman. “She feels betrayed. To have her character destroyed by people she considered to be her own people is devastating.” Feelings about Wallin in Wadena are divided, says Squires. One letter to the paper compared her treatment to a “public lynching.”
Those who benefited from her star wattage are distancing themselves. Kellie Leitch, now minister of labour and the status of women, benefited from Wallin headlining a fundraiser before she’d secured the Conservative nomination in Simcoe-Grey and then campaigning with her. Leitch’s spokeswoman now downplays any association: “Sen. Wallin attended two events during the course of the campaign and had no further involvement,” she wrote in an email to Maclean’s. Those who appointed her to boards and showered her with awards won’t talk.
“Pam made mistakes,” says Ambrose. “And one of them was that she drank the Prime Minister’s Kool-Aid and went out and defended his policies, especially Afghanistan.” Pehleman predicts Wallin will stay in the Senate, where she’ll be eligible for pension in 2015. But life as an Independent senator will bring a major demotion in status and influence, says Cools: “You don’t get too many favours.” Independent senators don’t sit on committees. Gone too are the invitations to state dinners or to travel as part of a delegation.
The Senate won’t be enough for Wallin, who needs to replace lost income streams, says Pehleman. “She’s going to need to do other things.” Another book is likely, she says. If anyone can weave profit from instructive life lessons on failure and betrayal, it’s Wallin. It’s destined to be a Canadian bestseller.
Maclean's September 23, 2013