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Patrick Brazeau: Not the First Nor Last Lazy Senator

06/26/2012 08:43 EDT | Updated 08/26/2012 05:12 EDT
AP

As far as the twitter war of words between Senator Brazeau and Jennifer Ditchburn are concerned, it was the Globe and Mails Adam Radwanski who described the situation via social media most eloquently -- "If memory serves, the last time Brazeau let his macho streak get the better of him, it didn't end so well."

This was after the young Senator made a twitter comment after an article was published by the Canadian Press journalist highlighting his lack of attendance in the Senate. In part, he said -- "while u smile Jen, others suffer. Change the D to a B in your last name and we're even! Don't mean it but needs saying."

This was after Ditchburn reported how the young Senator had missed 25 per cent of the 72 sittings between June 2011 and April 2012. In addition, the reporting makes the claim of him missing 65 per cent of meetings at the aboriginal peoples committee and 31 per cent of the meetings of the human rights committee, where he sits as deputy-chair. That makes his Senate attendance the worst among the less attended and accountable upper house.

The reporting of the attendance of Senators made headways in the Preston Manning Reform Party days in Ottawa in the 1990s via the case of a Liberal Senator. Senator Andrew Thompson allegedly lived in Mexico and rarely attended Senate business. He claimed his full salary as well as all benefits and he became a symbol of a broken system.

When his issue became public record, the Reform Party hired a Mexican band and catered Mexican cuisine in the lobby of the House of Commons to embarrass him and highlight how the senate is a waste of taxpayers' money. For most, he represented what needed to be changed and reformed in Ottawa. The opposition parties made much political point out of it. It embarrassed the then Liberal government of Jean Chretien The Reform Party -- now the Conservative Party of Canada -- promised to reform the it while the NDP promised to abolish it all together if they ever formed future federal governments.

Since those days, very little reform has taken place. When Paul Martin appointed the first NDP senator in 2005, Lillian Dyckthe NDP refused to recognize her as such. They claimed the "party platform specifically favours abolition of the Senate and it refused to confer legitimacy on the body by accepting" her. She then chose to sit as an -- Independent New Democratic Party before eventually joining the Liberals in 2009.

The Conservatives promised much in theory and produced very little to show for when they formed government. The little reform that has taken place is that there is now a financial penalty when Senators miss many sittings. They currently face sanctions of up to $250 per day in docked pay when they are absent from parliamentary debates for more than 21 days without cause.

Several "elected" Senators were eventually appointed by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. For instance, Bill S-4 in the Senate, which would amend the Constitution Act, 1867, called for senators to serve only a maximum of eight years instead of the current life time appointment. While in a minority government status, many bills to reform were introduced, but all of them failed.

In a majority government status, both in the House and Senate, little movement have taken place ever since the Conservatives where elected to a majority government status a year ago.

When Senator Barzeau was chosen to join the Senate along with distinguished Canadians such as Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallen, the Senator made very little impression to Canadians. He attempted to be a senator while also serving as national chief of Congress of Aboriginal Peoples. This would have qualified him to earn two publicly-funded six-figure salaries.

Today, after making such a derogatory comment via social media to a professional journalist coming from him -- he became what one critic described him as the "latest poster boy for a democratically challenged institution."

That is not a good position to be in for a young man who still has long Senate career of close to 40 years to serve.