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Look Who's Calling the Kettle Black

Posted: 07/15/2013 1:52 am

I recently read that the Premier of Saskatchewan, Mr. Brad Wall, is supporting the call for the abolishment of the Senate in light of the expense scandals. He claims that a "reform to create a Senate that is elected, effective and equal...is never going to happen" (Saskatchewan Party News, July 8, 2013).

Therefore, it must be abolished. He says that the Senate "hasn't the credibility that it should have" (The StarPhoenix, July 9, 2013). I have to admit that I find these statements quite ironic coming from Premier Wall.

Need I remind the Premier of the biggest political scandal in Saskatchewan's history when prominent members of former Premier Grant Devine's government were charged in relation to a scheme that defrauded taxpayers of more than $837,000. Or the more recent scandal when a videotape surfaced showing the Premier himself, along with former Deputy Premier in the Devine government during the infamous scandal, and former Senator, Eric Berntson, and current Conservative Member of Parliament Tom Lukiwski, mocking former Premier of Saskatchewan Roy Romanow in a Ukrainian accent.

If Premier Wall feels the necessary action is to abolish the Senate given the recent scandal amongst only a few Senators -- the majority of which have been appointed on the advice of Premier Wall's friend Prime Minister Stephen Harper -- perhaps the Premier should follow suit and take the same course of action with his own legislative assembly.

I feel I must also educate Premier Wall on the Senate's function in Parliament as he seems to have a misunderstanding when he states that the original intent of the Senate is for "regional and provincial representation" (Saskatchewan Party News, July 8, 2013).

The Senate has historically played four roles, all of which are complimentary to the functions of the House of Commons. They are: a revising legislative role, an investigative role, a regional representative role, and a protector of linguistic and other minorities role.

A recent example of the Senate's role in action would be the study of Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (Requirements for Labour Organizations). As Deputy Chair of the Committee where this Bill was referred, I can confidently say that the Senate dedicated much time and effort to this study.

Whereas the Standing Committee on Finance in the House of Commons devoted only three sessions to Bill C-377 hearing from only a few witnesses, the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce heard from forty-four witnesses over the course of seven sessions. This unconstitutional and iniquitous Bill would have breezed through the Conservative dominated House of Commons, however the Senate lived up to its role and provided a sober, second thought to Bill C-377.

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  • Pamela Wallin

    Pamela Wallin, at Tory senator from Saskatchewan, also found her expense claims under close scrutiny in Februrary when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/13/pamela-wallin-travel-expenses-harper_n_2680229.html" target="_blank">she billed taxpayers $142,190.26 for trips between March 1, 2011, and Feb. 29, 2012</a>. But only $10,551.99 of her expenses were related to travel between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, while the remaining $131,638.27 was filed under "Other." Questions were also raised about whether or not she satisfied the residency requirement needed to represent Saskatchewan in the Upper Chamber. Wallin split her time between Toronto and New York prior to being named a senator in 2008, but <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/senate-residency-pamela-wallin-duffy_n_2648325.html" target="_blank">does own a plot of land in the province and two properties with family members.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>

  • Patrick Brazeau

    Patrick Brazeau first came under fire in December of 2012 amid reports he was using <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">his former father-in-law's address </a>in Maniwaki, Que., to claim a Senate housing allowance, while actually living in Gatineau, just across the river from Parliament Hill. The Senate Board of Internal Economy subsequently asked an auditor to look at Brazeau's residency claims and expenses. In early February, Brazeau was arrested and charged with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/08/patrick-brazeau-charges-sexual-assault_n_2643606.html?utm_hp_ref=patrick-brazeau" target="_blank">assault and sexual assault </a>after a heated argument with his girlfriend turned violent. The charges promptly got Brazeau turfed from the Conservative caucus. On February 12, Brazeau was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/12/canadians-growing-ever-we_n_2667332.html" target="_blank">suspended indefinitely </a>from the Upper Chamber. <em>With files from CP</em>

  • Mike Duffy

    Conservative Mike Duffy also courted controversy over his housing allowance. The P.E.I. senator <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">claimed his cottage in Cavendish as his primary residence</a> and his long-time in home in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, as a secondary residence for which he collected $33,000 in living allowances he since 2010. While always maintaining he was entitled to the compensation, Duffy <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/22/mike-duffy-paying-back-money_n_2744800.html" target="_blank">vowed on February 22 to repay the money</a>. He blamed the entire issue on confusing and vague Senate paperwork. <em>With files from CP</em>

  • Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu

    Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu, a Conservative senator from Quebec, came under fire in early March when it was revealed <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/03/pierre-hugues-boisvenu-senate_n_2803052.html?utm_hp_ref=pierre-boisvenu" target="_blank">he collected a housing allowance of $20,000 despite living little more than a drive across a bridge from Parliament.</a> Boisvenu claimed his primary residence was in Sherbrooke, but sources said he had been staying at his secondary residence in Gatineau since separating from his wife in February, 2012. Boisvenu was then forced to admit in March that he had been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">carrying on a relationship with an aide, Isabelle Lapointe</a>. The Senate ethics officer had told him last year that he couldn't have his girlfriend on the office payroll but Boisvenu ignored the warning for months. The two have since split up and Lapointe is now working elsewhere. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/03/26/pierre-boisvenu-affair_n_2957596.html" target="_blank">Boisvenu has repaid the $900 stipend he collected while living with Lapointe for three months near Ottawa.</a> <em>With files from CP</em>

  • Mac Harb

    Liberal senator Mac Harb also had his expenses audited after it was discovered that he claimed <a href="http://metronews.ca/news/canada/560000/senate-controversy-senator-mac-harbs-home-in-the-spotlight/" target="_blank">about $40,212 in living expenses for a secondary residence in Ottawa from Nov. 30, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2012</a>. Harb, a former Ottawa MP, claims his primary residence is <a href="http://www.ctvnews.ca/politics/senator-harb-rarely-seen-in-area-he-calls-home-neighbours-1.1198184" target="_blank">a bungalow in the tiny village of Westmeath</a>, but neighbours claim that nobody lives there year-round and that it is basically a cottage.

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