Given that any change to the Senate is liable to require a constitutional amendment (resolutions from the House of Commons, Senate, and legislative assemblies of two-thirds of the provinces representing at least 50 percent of the Canadian population), here’s my idea:
Instead of allowing the prime minister to pick individuals at will and reward his friends with a cushy job for life, we force the PM to pick Senators from a pool of candidates selected by provincial legislatures. That way you’d have Senators who are more representative of the great diversity of Canadian views and values, with a better (read: real) regional representation, more influence for the provinces to pick who sits in what ought to be the Chamber of the Provinces, and a more democratic way to pick Senators without forcing them to run for office individually (which creates issues of legitimacy vis-a-vis MPs once Senators get to Ottawa).
I say it’s a great idea. Therefore it has approximately zero chance of being adopted. Sigh.
Senator Pamela Wallin owns a small apartment in New York City, it says here.
It’s not illegal, is it? So what if she wants to spend money to have her own place there? What business of yours is it? You’re jealous? You’d like to be able to afford a little pied-a-terre in the big apple? Me too. But that’s not exactly solid ground from which to criticize Wallin.
Look: Senators are meant to be among the more privileged members of society. That’s why there’s a property ownership requirement. That’s the way the system was set up – the House of Commons (“commons”, get it? That’s us, the common folk) is for everyone. The Senate was set up to represent the interests of minorities (e.g. rich people) and the interests of the provinces. Maybe that system needs changing. Maybe Canadians would rather be governed exclusively by power-hungry middle-class lawyers and punk musicians, I don’t know. I’d argue the Senate is necessary – you need to have, somewhere in your legislative machine, a way to slow things down and reflect on serious issues in a relatively non-partisan, long-term setting. The Senate does that, in its own imperfect way. It does much more, too – look at the kind of solid, in-depth work Senate committees do and ask yourself whether Canada would be better governed without it.
By all means keep Senators accountable for the way they use public funds. Keep on top of their travel expenses. Check their residency status. That’s fair game. But what they do with their own money and where they choose to spend their down time is none of our business.
Look: we can’t complain when the senators stay too close to Ottawa and also complain when their travels back home cost money. I’m glad to see the PM defend Sen. Wallin.
Harper defended Wallin’s travel costs as in line with those of other parliamentarians with similar travel schedules.
“Last year, Sen. Wallin spent almost half of her time in the province she represents in the Senate. The costs are obviously to travel to and from that province, as any similar parliamentarian would do,” he said.
In an interview Wednesday with Saskatchewan radio host John Gormley, Wallin said the way travel expenses are calculated by the Senate downplay the amount of time she actually spends in her home province.
She’s in Saskatchewan 168 days a year, she said.
There is an audit into her expenses and that’s fine. She ought to account for the way she spends her travel allowance. But assuming she does that to the auditor’s satisfaction, we should cut her some slack.
On Monday afternoon, shortly after the Tories faced a series of questions over Senate reform and Senate spending, Leader of the Government in the Senate Marjorie LeBreton and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate James Cowan sent the following letter to both the press gallery and to two members of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy.
An exclusive Sun News Poll by Abacus Data has a big picture look at the political leanings of the country two years out from a federal election and how the third party in the standings would fare with leadership hopeful Justin Trudeau.
Abacus Data Pollster David Coletto and Sun News Commentator Ray Heard joined David Akin on Battleground with more.