THUNDER BAY – Politics – This week Canadians were reminded of something that we already knew; our Senate is a useless and unnecessary expense to taxpayers and should be abolished.
Senate -Irrelevant and expensive
The irrelevancy and expense of operating Canada’s unelected and unaccountable Senate is something that New Democrats and many people in Northwestern Ontario and Canada have been concerned about for some time. Some of the reasons are self-evident, but the most convincing arguments to get rid of the Senate are often provided by Senators themselves.
Enter Senators Patrick Brazeau and Mike Duffy, two Conservatives each appointed by Prime Minister Harper until the ripe old age of 75. These two Senators, making $132,000 per year until they are forced to retire (just 37 years remaining for young Mr. Brazeau), and have access to a $21,000 expense account to offset their costs of residency in both Ottawa and at their “primary” home in the region they represent; Prince Edward Island for Duffy and Southwestern Quebec for Brazeau. The use of this expense account by these two Senators is now the subject of a third-party ethics investigation that is presently underway in Ottawa.
Before being appointed as Conservative Senators by Mr. Harper both Duffy Brazeau held well-paying and long term jobs in Ottawa for many years. Mr. Duffy was a senior broadcast journalist with CTV in the national capital and Mr. Brazeau was Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal People. Both lived in the Ottawa region for more than a decade before becoming Senators yet, upon receiving their Senate appointments, they began filing housing expense claims for their “primary” residences in Prince Edward Island and Southwestern Quebec.
Unfortunately, the “neighbours” of the two men’s “primary” residences say they almost never see them. Duffy’s “home” in Prince Edward has all the looks of a small Island cottage and Brazeau’s primary residence was actually that of his former father-in-law who claimed that the Senator had never actually lived there. And, we’re talking about serious sums of money here as Duffy alone has claimed more than $30,000 since September 2010 despite maintaining a health card for Ontario being eligible to vote in our provincial election. He holds neither a health card nor voting rights for Prince Edward Island, but still collects a hefty allowance to supposedly cover his primary housing costs in PEI while he serves in the Senate in Ottawa. We don’t even know if Brazeau has even visited his “primary” residence at this point in time.
While the obvious solution is to abolish this partisan pork barrel of an institution it seems that Mr. Harper is not at all eager to fix the mess. In just the last month Mr. Harper has appointed five more Senators, bringing his total number of Senate appointments to 58 since becoming Prime Minister just over 7 years ago. It’s a bad record for someone who pledged to never appoint a Senator, but it’s a horrific record for someone who claims to respect taxpayer dollars and rejects the very notion of patronage appointments.
The third party investigation of the housing residence claims by Duffy, Brazeau, and a third Senator (Mac Harb a Liberal from Ottawa) is being coordinated by the Senate itself, so MPs and the public may never actually know the real story behind the “primary” housing expense scandal when it is all said and done, but there are likely two outcomes. Either Harper’s appointed lapdogs are fraudulently bilking taxpayers for tens of thousands of dollars, or they are just following the rules and doing their jobs rubber stamping the Harper agenda at a cost of more than $90 million per year to taxpayers.
Either way, New Democrats believe that the Senate should be abolished and all of this money returned to taxpayers. It’s the democratic and fiscally responsible thing to do.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River