Senate Scandal – Just Starting
THUNDER BAY – Politics – Some startling details emerged this week into the ongoing Senate expense scandal, and the findings could spell trouble for Senator Pamela Wallin and the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
Back in the 2011 campaign, the NDP raised red flags about Conservative and Liberal Senators campaigning on the public dime. We asked Canadians to help us out by emailing us or using the #sawasenator hashtag on Twitter and other social media. Our campaign received a lot of responses from Canadians all across the country.
The reason we did this is because we knew that unelected and unaccountable Senators with jobs for life – you know like Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin – were out on the campaign trail and working hard to elected Conservatives right across the country. It was obvious to us at the time that something was amiss. We had never seen so many Senators out and about doing anything, but especially campaigning for a political party.
Following the election New Democrats asked Mr. Harper in Question Period how he could allow Senators to campaign using public dollars. In response, Mr. Harper offered; “Mr. Speaker, the Conservative Party has been clear that it pays its own campaign expenses,” (Stephen Harper, House of Commons, June 4, 2013). As it turns out this statement was completely false.
Independent Senate Audit on Senator Wallin
Fast forward to this week’s release of an independent audit conducted by Deloitte of Ms. Wallin’s travel expenses. The audit found many problems with her travel, but mostly that she was undertaking personal business while on these trips and billing the Senate as if it were part of her work in parliament. The cost to taxpayers of Ms. Wallin’s ineligible travel came to more than $120,000.
I think the worst part was that the auditors found that Ms. Wallin charged taxpayers for attending partisan Conservative fundraising events in Saskatchewan, Toronto, Kitchener, Montreal (fundraising gala for Brian Mulroney) and a TV panel appearance during the election campaign to spin for her political party.
Here are just a few of some of the official findings related to partisan activities:
“Senator Wallin drove from Wadena to Saskatoon on April 15, 2009. The Senator’s Office represented to us that Senator Wallin was the keynote speaker at a public event organized by the four local Conservative Party electoral district associations (‘EDAs’). The Conservative party represented this event as a $100 per plate dinner put on by the four local EDAs. This does not appear to be Senate business, as it was a fundraising event.” Deloitte Audit, Claim # 5390
“Senator Wallin travelled from Trenton to Toronto on April, 30 2011 to participate as member of a televised political panel discussion on the unfolding election results. The Senator represented to us that she participated in this panel as a representative of the Conservative Party. This does not appear to be Senate business due to the partisan nature of the Senators role.” Deloitte Audit, Deloitte Audit, Claim # 17087
“Senator Wallin travelled from Ottawa to Montreal and back to Ottawa on September 17, 2009. The Senator’s Office represented that the purpose of the trip was to attend a special event honouring the former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney marking the milestone achievements of NAFTA and the GST. This appears to be a partisan event, and therefore, this appears not to be Senate business.” Deloitte Audit, #13670
“Senator Wallin flew from Ottawa to Toronto on September 18, 2010. The Senator’s Office represented that on the same day the Senator was the keynote speaker at a riding event in Kitchener, where she spoke about Canada’s role in Afghanistan and Canada no longer being a spectator nation. Our research indicates that this is a Conservative Party fundraising event, and therefore, this does not appear to be Senate business.” Deloitte Audit, Claim # 18055
So mark this week down as the week that it was confirmed that you (yes you!) helped pay the travel and accommodation expenses of Ms. Wallin as she worked hard to help elected Conservatives MPs right across the country.
If you think this is bad though, wait until the audit on the other 104 Senators, including the 59 Senators that Mr. Harper has appointed is completed sometime in the next year or so. In other words…stay tuned.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River