By John Geddes - Friday, March 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
After months of scandals, could it finally be time to scrap the Senate? John Geddes reports
For a sense of how damaging the news has been for the Senate this winter, take a guess at which of two Feb. 6 stories most stuck in the minds of Canadians. There was the release that day of a carefully researched report by the Senate’s finance committee on the persistence of lower consumer prices in the U.S. than in Canada, just the sort of policy work senators use to justify their patronage positions. And then there was Sen. Mike Duffy scuttling away through the kitchen after giving a speech at a Halifax hotel ballroom, trying to evade reporters asking questions about his claim that he mainly lives on Prince Edward Island, the dubious basis on which he’s collected a Senate allowance for his Ottawa housing costs. At the journalists in hot pursuit, plying his former trade, Duffy huffed, “You should be doing adult work.”
Many Canadians listening to that TV clip—let’s stipulate that few were distracted by the worthy committee study of prices—must have wondered if it isn’t senators who should heed Duffy’s advice. Parliament’s upper chamber has suffered through patches of deep notoriety before, but the past three months brought an unusually sustained flurry of public-image pummelling. A key reason was the marquee quality of three Conservative senators who found themselves under unwelcome scrutiny. Duffy is famous as a former long-time TV news personality. So is Sen. Pamela Wallin, whose six-digit travel expense claims are also the subject of controversy and a special audit. And Sen. Patrick Brazeau—whose far more dire downward spiral, culminating in charges of assault and sexual assault—is also widely recognizable for having been thrashed last year by Justin Trudeau in a highly publicized charity boxing match.
By John Geddes - Friday, February 8, 2013 at 6:39 PM - 0 Comments
When Canadians hear the Prime Minister calling Senator Patrick Brazeau’s situation “extremely appalling”—from Stephen Harper, uncharacteristically vivid language—they might well wonder how this character rated a Senate seat in the first place.
The short, glib answer is that he didn’t. In a way, no senator does. The continued existence of an upper chamber in our Parliament that exists to be packed with partisan patronage appointees remains a national embarrassment—or would be if we thought about it much.
But Brazeau’s personal downfall is, of course, entirely distinct from the institutional problem of a standing affront to democracy right there on Parliament Hill. Nobody should suggest that the charges of assault and sexual assault laid against him today somehow reflect on the Senate in general.