THUNDER BAY – OP-ED – You can bet that the spin-meisters and drones buzzing around Harper’s office in uber-damage control are frantically protecting the queen bee on this one! First comes the preposterous statement that “The Prime minister didn’t know” that his Chief of Staff – the Guardian of the Gate, the Machiavelli behind the emperor’s throne, porked out $90,000 to the Honourable Senator from Double Dipping to “save the Canadian taxpayers.” Then, in panic mode, the handlers in PMO create as much distance between the emperor and Senator Duffy as there is between a mongoose and a snake. They are now asking incredulous Canadians to accept Duffy’s eviction from the Conservative caucus as the ultimate punishment for real and perceived sins. That’s like transferring a pedophile priest to another parish. Canadians hardly perceive that as justice served.
The Senate has not been a happy experience for our Prime Minister of Sinister, the beleaguered Stephan Harper. Promising to reform it and then stacking it with party fund-raisers and loyal followers, he is now reaping the rewards of his bad judgment. We have the spectacle of the honourable Patrick Brazeau a loyal lap dog and “president” of a bogus non-representative aboriginal congress who consistently ran interference for the PM against the Assembly of First Nations rewarded with a seat in the Senate only to face criminal charges for alleged sexual assault in addition to expense account deceptions.
And now the larger-than-life spectacle of the Honourable Senator from Two Houses, Mike Duffy! Stephan Harper could not have picked a better poster boy for pork! The double-dipper who, despite his communications background appears to “misspeak” to use that wonderful Orwellian term, at every opportunity.
Like our tailbones, the Senate is a vestige of another life long ago. In Canada, it stems from our colonial heritage (think British House of Lords, Lord Conrad Black and all that) when the Canadian aristocracy and the monied Family Compacts could not abide to entrust the common rabble with democracy based on elected representation. Thus came the Upper House (sic), the chamber of “sober second thought” created to further the assumption that the first thoughts of the elected rabble were neither sober nor examples of good thinking.
One can understand how this arrogant and faulty logic could eventually lead to the political culture that girds this bastion of political patronage and cronyism – now the hallmark of this archaic, expensive, discredited, and like our tailbones, ineffective vestige of our colonial past.
Like so many other of his failed promises and economic missteps, Stephen Harper has cast reform of the Senate into the dustbin. Of the 105 senators at the public trough, Harper has now appointed more than 50% of them. Each Senator earns $132,000 a year. The Speaker of the Senate, chairs and vice-chairs of the myriad committees earn considerably more. They each receive abundant travel allowances, which they can use, allocate to partners or give away to friends as they see fit. If they live more than 100 klms from Ottawa they are entitled to an annual handout of $22,000. That other ex-journalist, Harper appointee Pamela Wallin presented the taxpayer with a bill in excess of $350,000 for her travel troubles. They each receive $161,000 per year to maintain an office and pay staff. The Government Leader in the Senate, a woman who has been at this public trough for nearly thirty years earns over $200,000 a year. Canadians would likely not want to know how much they are on the hook for the pensions they will have to pay out to these free-riders. If not convicted, the “Honourable” Senator Patrick Brazeau will have pocketed a minimum of $5.4 million by the time he is forced to retire, as are all Senators, at the age of 75. That does not include annual cost-of-living adjustments or much anticipated salary increases and, of course, his continual claims for travel expenses.
Nice work if you can get it, eh? Now that is what I call a pork barrel with a lot of sauce!
We have a House of Commons and a House of Pork. We have able and articulate elected representatives that do not require second thoughts – sober, or more frequently, otherwise. Why we continue to support scoundrels, troughers and aristocratic pork is beyond me. Aside from spending it on fighter jets, false lakes in the Muskokas, “lost” anti-terrorism receipts and the gutting of environmental legislation and organizations, think of what could be done with the $90 million annually it costs all of us to keep this arcane and useless institution and its denizens rolling in our dough.
Peter Andre Globensky
Peter Andre Globensky is a resident of Thunder Bay and worked as a Senior Policy Advisor in the Prime Minister’s Office, and as Chief of Staff to the Minister of External Relations and International Development in the 1980’s.