Consider me one of the millions of Canadians offended by the Senate spending scandal. But it's not for the reason you might think. The auditor general spent around $23 million on this investigation, and found less than $1 million in questionable expenses -- out of $180 million worth of expenses investigated. So we, the ever-patient, ever-indulgent taxpayers, spent $23 million to find out that 0.5 per cent of Senate expenses were questionable. Should we be outraged? Yes, by the dollar cost of the investigation and by the cost to the reputation of Canada's upper house.
We don't need two elected chambers in the Parliament of Canada. One is enough. Imagine the conflicts that could arise between two elected bodies, each feeling they have mandates to represent the people. Just look at the gridlock that exists in the United States Congress. Our system, which is based on the British or Westminster model, has stood the test of time.
Saskatchewan is one of the richest jurisdictions in Canada, second only to Alberta, and has once more lit a firestorm that may sweep the west and profoundly change Canada's politics. Like the launch of public health care and refusal to let foreigners buy Potash Corporation, Saskatchewan led the nation with its initiative to abolish the Canadian Senate.
Constitutional reform is entirely legitimate in the life of a vibrant democracy. The Canadian Senate either needs serious reform or it should be abolished, and this requires changes to our Constitution. In refusing to engage the people in constitutional reform, our leaders forget that the Constitution belongs to the people of Canada, not to the federal and provincial governments.
For all the Duffys, Harpers, Harbs, Wallins and Brazeaus, there are the quiet, reasoned and compassionate voices of the Segals, Dallaires and Cowans, and, yes, the Munsons, fighting for the humanity of Canadians instead of the loyalty of their base. They have tackled the political order in both houses and in every party to restore this country's image in the world.
As Canada turns 146, many recent surveys show that most Canadians are hankering for a new constitution. So is Canada's Constitution a completed document? Some commentators have claimed since 1995 that Canadians are tired of constitutional talks, and while this was likely true back then there is no evidence that the fatigue continues. As Canada moves toward its 150th birthday in 2017, what more appropriate national discussion could take place than about the document that founded both our country and our governments, and about the changes Canadians want in a new constitution?
What is happening in both the House of Commons and the Senate at the moment represents a serious enough threat to our democracy that we require remedial efforts in real time, far in advance of whatever constitutional refinements to these institutions that might lie in the future. Our focus should be upon the selection process for Senators, at least in the interim.
Canadians caught a glimpse of what "could be" in the 1992 Charlottetown Accord; the closest we have come to real Senate reform since Confederation.The prime minister who wrought this was Brian Mulroney. But even he was surprised. I know, because I was the one who informed him an elected Senate might just happen.
No one can downplay the seriousness of the issue both for the individuals concerned, for the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party or the Senate itself. The accusations are very serious as the number of investigations indicates. We do have to be careful, though, to separate fact from rhetoric, and ask some hard questions to both sides of the senate scandals.