POLITICS

John Oliver: Senate Expense Scandal 'Could Not Be Any More Canadian'

06/15/2015 10:39 EDT | Updated 06/15/2015 10:39 EDT

It seems Canadian politics has once again become fodder for comedians in the United States.

But according to John Oliver, this country has forgotten what constitutes a real scandal.

On Sunday, the host of HBO's satirical news program "Last Week Tonight" poked fun at the report from Canada's auditor general that flagged nearly $1 million in questionable spending from 30 current and former senators.

Michael Ferguson's nearly two-year probe into Senate expenses could lead to more RCMP charges and has some Canadians further questioning the legitimacy of the upper chamber.

Oliver, however, couldn't resist chuckling that some senators in Canada — a nation he said is "basically five hockey rinks surrounded by bears" — claimed expenses for golf and fishing vacations, holidays, and hockey tickets.

"Wow. Hockey and fishing trips. This scandal could not be any more Canadian if public money was used to get Drake to drink maple syrup on Niagara Falls," Oliver joked.

Oliver mentioned that former Conservative Senate speaker Noel Kinsella claimed more than $5,600 to attend a funeral, while Senate Liberal Terry Mercer claimed $3,452 to attend a 100th anniversary event at a Toronto curling club.

"A man named Terry going to a curling club anniversary," he said. "Kudos Canada, you made this scandal more Canadian after I explicitly said that could not be done. Well-played. Well-played, Canada."

Yet the real kicker, according to Oliver, is that $23.6 million was spent to uncover $976,627 in problematic Senate spending.

"How the hell do you spend nearly $24 million auditing stamps and breakfasts?" he asked.

Oliver highlighted the case of Tory Sen. Nancy Ruth, who made headlines in April when she complained about having to justify claiming meal expenses while flying instead of just eating "awful" airline breakfasts.

"If you want ice-cold Camembert with broken crackers, have it," she said at the time.

New Democrats — who aim to abolish the Senate — immediately latched on to the quote as an example of excess in the upper chamber. Leader Thomas Mulcair referred to Ruth as the "Camembert Conservative" during question period and NDP staffers even handed out the cheese to reporters covering the trial of suspended senator Mike Duffy.

Oliver agrees Ruth referenced the wrong snack.

"It is hard to elicit any kind of public sympathy when you're uttering a sentence that includes the word Camembert," he said. "Because even if someone is yelling, 'Help, I'm choking on Camembert,' it still basically sounds like they're showing off."

This is not the first time Oliver has dedicated a few minutes of his popular show to politics in Canada. Back in October, he urged Toronto voters to cast a ballot for mayoral candidate Doug Ford, whose infamous brother Rob helped keep U.S. comedians working during his tumultuous reign as leader of Canada's largest city.

"Please, please elect this man," Oliver urged. "Sure, his brother was f*cked, but at a certain point we felt bad laughing at him. Whereas Doug Ford doesn't have a drug problem, he's just an asshole. A non-chemically assisted asshole.

"So, please Toronto, I beg you, let us laugh at your asshole for another four years. Yours sincerely, everyone who does not live in Toronto."

With a file from The Canadian Press

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