Wednesday, October 16, 2013

By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Throne speech expected to make scant mention of scandal-plagued upper chamber

The disgraced Senate will serve as a backdrop for next week’s throne speech and is bound to dominate debate during the fall sitting of Parliament.

Yet there’ll be scant mention of the scandal-plagued Senate in the speech, which is to be read Wednesday by Governor General David Johnston from a regal throne in the ornate upper chamber.

Insiders say Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has concluded it can do little to clean up the unelected Senate until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutional requirements for reforming or abolishing the chamber, which could take a year or more.

Hence, any kind of reform to the upper house has been put on hold — including purely administrative measures, which would be entirely within the government’s purview to implement, such as requiring senators to publicly disclose details of their expenses.

The throne speech’s expected silence on the subject comes amid an ongoing Senate expenses scandal that has mushroomed over the past year and shows no sign of going away any time soon.

The RCMP is investigating allegedly fraudulent living and travel expenses claimed by four senators — former Conservative caucus members Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Pamela Wallin and former Liberal Mac Harb.

Duffy is also under the Mounties’ microscope for accepting $90,000 from Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, in order to reimburse the Senate for his dubious expense claims. (Source: National Post)