Friday, May 10, 2013

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, May 10, 2013

A weak Senate response to its expense scandal

Any Canadian hoping to see serious reforms or criminal charges in the wake of the Senate’s housing and expense scandal is sure to be disappointed by the Red Chamber’s tepid response.
The Senate’s standing committee on internal economy Thursday recommended no further penalty, beyond returning the money they took, for three senators who had made inappropriate housing allowance claims. The committee also recommended dispensing with the traditional honour system in handling accounts.

All told, this is the absolute minimum the Senate could do to salvage some shred of integrity. If Senators think this bit of contrition is enough they still haven’t got the message. This will only fuel demands for a fuller, more transparent public accounting of what they do with our money.

“The credibility of the Senate has been attacked and has been diminished,” said Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan, following the committee’s report. “None of this is good news.”

The committee reviewed detailed reports from the consultant Deloitte showing senators Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy and Mac Harb had each claimed thousands of dollars in public money to support secondary homes in Ottawa because their primary residence was supposedly more than 100 kilometres from Parliament Hill.

In fact, Harb and Duffy lived in Ottawa while Brazeau resided in nearby Gatineau. With exquisite precision, citing evidence such as cellphone records, the consultant found Brazeau spent only a fraction of his time at his supposed residence, in far away Maniwaki, Que. Likewise for Duffy’s stay at the Prince Edward Island home he claimed as his primary residence and Harb’s supposed home in Westmeath, more than 100 km northwest of Ottawa. (Source: Toronto Star) http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2013/05/10/a_weak_senate_response_to_its_expense_scandal_undermines_the_trust_of_canadians_editorial.html