At its core, the Prime Minister's role in the Senate expense affair is a story about the elected head of the government of Canada demanding some shred of accountability and ethics from a crooked political institution whose members believe they have no obligation to provide either. That's not a scandal.
This week's Deloitte audit on Senator Pamela Wallin has raised numerous questions about a troubling lack of accountability in the Senate. I am asking you, as the new Minister for Democratic Reform, to undertake a review of both residency requirements as well as the process through which potential Senators are vetted, in order to prevent problems like these from happening in the future. When the Senate and government of the day is unwilling to even address whether Senate appointees are eligible to sit, it serves to further erode any remaining confidence in the institution.
The ongoing RCMP investigation into the Nigel Wright cheque that was given to Senator Duffy plus the potential for further RCMP involvement into allegations around Senator Wallin, means this story and the Senate scandal have the potential to drag on for many more months. All of which spells negative coverage for the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party.
Earlier this week, the Senate received an independent audit of former Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin's expenses. This report not only confirmed what has been reported in the news for weeks -- that Senator Wallin was involved in submitting potentially fraudulent expense claims costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars -- but it exposed the latest example of Stephen Harper's poor judgment. Either this Prime Minister deliberately misled Canadians or he didn't really inform himself on the facts of Senator Wallin's case, contrary to what he told Canadians. Whichever, it demonstrates a bona fide lack of honesty, integrity and accountability that has become a hallmark of the Harper Conservatives.
The Prime Minister is probably having serious second thoughts about appointing high-profile journalists and insiders Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin to the Senate, and he should be. He missed a grand opportunity to implement true Senate reform: tapping normal everyday folks to sit in the country's upper house.