POLITICS

NDP MP Pat Martin Fails To Strip $57 Million From Senate Budget

06/08/2015 01:29 EDT | Updated 06/09/2015 10:59 EDT

OTTAWA — The NDP will try once again Monday to defund the Senate by stripping the upper chamber of most of its budget.

NDP MP Pat Martin plans to move a motion to scrap $57 million dollars from the Senate’s program expenditures for this year’s budget. The upper chamber’s total budget for 2015-2016 is expected to be $88,747,958.

UPDATE:The NDP's efforts to defund the Senate was defeated Monday evening by a vote of 178 to 95.

During the lively debate NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus told the Commons his party wanted to see the whole lot of senators thrown out.

His colleague Isabelle Morin said senators were not "more predisposed to be corrupt than elected members. Not at all." But the difference was that the democratically elected House of Commons has initiated numerous mechanisms in order to ensure its accountability to Canadian taxpayers.

Morin didn't say what those were but suggested looser rules existed in the upper House. She said the NDP would "engage in a constructive dialogue with the premiers" to decide the future of the red chamber.

The NDP supports abolishing the Senate. But former Liberal leader Stephane Dion told the Commons it could not be abolished "because there is no unanimity in this country to abolish the Senate."

Paul Calandra, the prime minister's parliamentary secretary, kept asking NDP MPs what their party would do if they put the question to Canadians in a referendum and they rejected it.

NDP MP Ève Péclet acknowledged the first step the NDP would take is consult with provincial premiers and then it would hold a referendum in which it would respect the will of Canadians and Quebeckers.

The NDP — which has no senators — has tried to do this at least twice before.

New Democrats want to abolish the upper house, but any such constitutional change would require the approval of not only the House of Commons and the Senate itself, but also the unanimous consent of all the provinces.

In 2011, when Martin introduced a similar motion, he called the Senate an “expensive joke” that made a mockery of democracy.

"We might not be able to abolish the Senate by constitutional amendment, but we can cut off its blood supply," he told CBC.

In 2013, during the height of the Senate scandal involving senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb, the NDP moved another motion to cease all funding to the upper chamber.

NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat said the institution is “outdated” and that non-elected senators shouldn’t be entrusted with similar duties as those of elected officials. He also criticized senators for spending a good deal of their time on partisan business — which they can expense to taxpayers. Ravignat said the Senate cannot be trusted to investigate itself.

Then-democratic reform minister Tim Uppal called the NDP motion a “gimmick” and it failed.

Since then, however, the Conservative majority in the Senate has expelled fellow Tories Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin without pay. (Harb, a Liberal, resigned before he could be suspended).

The Senate called in the auditor general to review the expenses of all senators, including some who had recently retired.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau kicked all senators out of his caucus and barred them from engaging in federal Liberal party activities, such as fundraisers and campaign events.

Duffy, Brazeau and Harb were charged by the RCMP.

The Supreme Court of Canada issued a judgment on the ability of the federal government to unilaterally bring forward reform to the upper chamber.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided that reforming of the upper chamber wasn’t worth the hassle of trying to persuade the provinces to agree.

Duffy’s criminal trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery is in progress.

The AG’s audit report — in which 30 senators with problematic expense claims are flagged — was delivered to the Speaker of the Senate and will be released publicly Tuesday.

And Pierre Poilievre, the new minister for democratic reform, suggested the Tories would abolish the upper house if the provinces pushed for the idea.

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