By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 9, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Potentially explosive audits into dodgy housing expenses claimed by three senators are…
OTTAWA – Potentially explosive audits into dodgy housing expenses claimed by three senators are expected to be made public today.
The Senate’s internal economy committee met for hours late Wednesday to review the audit results and is to meet again this morning to determine what action it will recommend be taken — including whether the RCMP should be asked to investigate possible fraud or whether repayment of improperly claimed housing allowances should be deemed sufficient to close the controversial file.
The committee’s report on the audits is expected to be tabled in the Senate this afternoon.
The audits deal with the housing allowances claimed by Conservative senators Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau and Liberal Mac Harb.
A separate audit is still being conducted into the travel expenses of Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin. Continue…
By Amanda Shendruk - Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 11:31 AM - 0 Comments
Canadian senators have been listening to the controversy surrounding their travel expenses, and have responded en masse. According to an analysis of the most recent senate quarterly expense report (released last week), a whopping 70 per cent of senators have reduced their spending on travel.
Last week, journalist Stephen Maher determined that top Senate spenders reduced their travel expenses from the previous quarter. His analysis was fascinating, but what if last quarter was especially high for travel expenses? Or particularly low? How did the rest fare?
I kicked his analysis up a notch and looked even further back by comparing the recently released expense report with each senator’s average (per quarter) travel expenses. Each senator’s average travel expenses were determined by looking at every quarterly expense report since September 2010 (including both “regular” and “other” travel).
The findings were surprising: Almost three quarters of senators reduced their spending from their own average. Three senators reduced their spending by 100 per cent, five reduced spending by more than 80 per cent, and when all was said and done, almost one in four reduced their spending between 50 and 100 per cent.
Below is an interactive bar chart comparing each senator’s average per quarter travel spending (in blue) with what they spent on travel in just the last quarter (in red). Note: New senators, and those who have just left, have not been included in the analysis, or the chart.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, January 25, 2013 at 6:15 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Personal connections and political obligations played a role Friday as Stephen Harper…
OTTAWA – Personal connections and political obligations played a role Friday as Stephen Harper named five new senators, including the controversial winner of a Senate election in Alberta and the wife of a Conservative MP who committed suicide in 2009.
Denise Batters, a Regina lawyer and senior figure in the province’s Crown Investments Corp., is the widow of Conservative MP Dave Batters, whose suicide prompted Harper to deliver an emotional call to arms at his funeral.
“We know this much,” the prime minister said. “Depression can strike the sturdiest of souls. It cares not how much you have achieved, nor how much you have to live for.”
In a brief interview Friday, the newly appointed Batters — since becoming a prominent advocate for mental health — said she plans to keep up the fight to raise public awareness about depression once in Ottawa.
“That will remain a personal priority of mine, definitely,” Batters said, describing as “amazing” the opportunity she will now have to walk the same corridors of power as her husband once did.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 7:07 PM - 51 Comments
The Scene. Last week, the Foreign Affairs Minister called the Liberal foreign affairs critic to discuss the future of this country’s mission in Afghanistan. Yesterday, after an extension to that mission had been announced, the Prime Minister noted that “the decisions we have taken are very close to what the Liberal Party in fact recommended, so I am glad that we actually agree on this particular matter.”
And so it was today that the Prime Minister stood and identified the Liberals as enemies of the state. “The opposition is simply playing politics with the lives of Air Force members,” Mr. Harper cried this afternoon when Michael Ignatieff dared persist in asking him to justify the multi-billion-dollar purchase of new warplanes.
That the Prime Minister would, even indirectly, cooperate with anyone so treasonous as to show callous disregard for the lives of Canadian servicemen and women seems preposterous. Even that he would be comfortable finding himself in agreement with such scoundrels on something as important as the deployment of Canadian troops into a war zone seems beyond the realm of belief. So perhaps the Prime Minister is simply better than most of us at maintaining contradictory feelings for others. Perhaps he, possessing a generous understanding of others, believes that the Liberal side is capable of both making a responsible decision about the deployment of our military and being flippant about the lives of our soldiers. Perhaps there is no contradiction or disconnect between what this government did in one case and what Mr. Harper has said here.
Or perhaps the lesson here—the moral of this story, the message of this week, the theme of these last five years—is that it is counterproductive to place much more than passing importance on the words that come from the mouths of this government. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 1:16 PM - 294 Comments
Conservatives senators called a snap vote last night and defeated Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, that was passed by the House in May. This will no doubt outrage the Prime Minister, Mr. Harper and his government having periodically lamented the tyranny an unelected Senate can impose.
“We don’t believe an unelected body should in anyway be blocking an elected body,” he told a news conference in Calgary … “We are looking for the opportunity to elect senators, but if at some point it becomes clear some senators are not going to be elected, the government will name senators to ensure that the elected will of the House of Commons and the people of Canada is reflected in the Senate.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 12, 2010 at 9:24 AM - 27 Comments
Conservative Senators are quietly using taxpayer-funded literature to target opposition ridings with a partisan crime message as the party gears up for the next election, the Toronto Star has learned. And at least one of the Senators sent the mailers out at the direction of the Conservative Party of Canada’s national campaign office…
By using the Senators to send out this kind of literature, the Conservative Party gets around the prohibition on MPs using tax dollars to send partisan messages to other ridings, which the House of Commons agreed must stop.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 3:41 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal senator Grant Mitchell contemplates the potential possibilities and pitfalls of senate reform.
Electing Senators will cause a massive shift of power from the Prime Minister, from the House of Commons and from provincial Premiers to the Senate. As elected Senators they can (and they will) hold up legislation and budgets which will diminish the power of the House of Commons. Since there are, for example, only 6 Senators in Alberta compared to 28 MPs, they will have more prominence and the power that goes with it. When elected, Senators will more aggressively exercise their role in representing regional rights and will take the power to do that from where it resides now, with the Premiers. I often ask people to name 5 members of the US House of Representatives, 5 Governors and then 5 US Senators. For most, it is way easier to name Senators than either Governors or a Congress Person. That’s because the US Senate, elected as it is, is the most powerful institution in US government.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at 2:32 PM - 0 Comments
If senate reform is, as has been hinted, to be prominent in the government’s fall agenda, it is perhaps worth seriously considering what it is we want the senate to be. And on that note, here is an extensive look at the U.S. Senate, penned by the New Yorker’s George Packer after a few months of observation.
As the senators cast their votes, I noticed Robert Kaiser, the author of “So Damn Much Money,” in the press gallery. I later asked him if, with the passage of two big reform bills in three months, we were witnessing a possible renewal of the Senate. “If you can engage public opinion in a way politicians can understand, public opinion can still blow away money and interest groups,” he said. “But over the past few decades the reflex has grown in the Senate that, all things considered, it’s better to avoid than to take on big issues. This is the kind of thing that drives Michael Bennet nutty: here you’ve arrived in the United States Senate and you can’t do fuck-all about the destruction of the planet.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 9, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Two of Stephen Harper’s senators are now openly quibbling with the idea of a fully elected Senate—another three apparently reluctant to say where they stand.
Boisvenu told QMI Agency he believes Canadians are more in favour of an elected Senate but he believes the chamber should be mixed, with 50% appointed and 50% elected. “If you look currently at who is in office, I’m not sure we always elect the best people,” Boisvenu said. “The danger of going with a fully elected Senate is that you risk getting people who are more interested in politics than ideas.”
… While a handful, like staunch Ontario Conservatives Bob Runciman and Doug Finley pledged full support for an elected Senate, senators Mike Duffy, Irving Gerstein and Glen Patterson refused to say whether they still support the government’s legislation.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 5, 2010 at 12:54 PM - 31 Comments
A few weeks ago, Liberal Senator James Cowan wrote the Justice Minister requesting a correcting of the record. A few days ago, the Justice Minister wrote back and Rob Nicholson’s office has kindly passed along that reply.
Full text after the jump. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 12:34 PM - 58 Comments
Senator Elaine McCoy makes the case for a reformed, but still appointed, Senate.
Consider what happens now when you elect someone to go to Ottawa. No sooner have they spent their first term in office than they’re emailing home to explain why they voted for something their constituents didn’t want. The reason, of course, is party discipline. They’re “whipped,” i.e., told to vote with their party or else leave caucus. Most stay and do what they’re told. Without the party, it’s very difficult to get re-elected.
It would be no different for senators if they were running for election. Most would run as party candidates. What we’d end up with is nothing more than 105 more backbenchers. Right back, in fact, where we started. So let’s start again. Let’s take the proposition that an independent, appointed Senate is, after all, Canada’s last best chance for democracy.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 5:20 PM - 15 Comments
Senator James Cowan cordially partakes of the ancient art of open-letter writing.
As Minister of Justice, and as a personal proponent of a strong law-and-order agenda, you have a duty, which I am sure you recognize, to uphold the truth and not mislead Canadians. Accordingly, I am confident that you will wish to quickly correct the record, and agree that the Liberal opposition in the Senate has not in fact “obstructed” your Government’s anti-crime agenda. To the contrary, the greatest delays to the implementation of your agenda have been due to your own Government’s actions in failing to bring bills forward for debate, dragging your feet in bringing legislation into force, and most significantly, proroguing Parliament.
The Canadian Press story to which Mr. Cowan elsewhere refers is here.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, February 9, 2010 at 1:12 PM - 9 Comments
Something like 750 words on the last of the Progressive Conservatives on Parliament Hill.
She defines herself as socially progressive and fiscally conservative. And by her estimation, the Harper government has been neither. Tied by partisan afﬁliation to the past, working within an institution many consider antiquated, McCoy seems rather contemporary. She uses Twitter, has created an elaborate website (albertasenator.ca) dedicated to “meaningful, informed, open discussion” and regularly blogs about matters of policy and legislation. Last fall, with statistics and graphs, she doubted whether legislation on cigarillos would result in fewer children smoking. She speaks now of early childhood learning as a Progressive Conservative ideal: both socially and economically sound. She says, “I’m very fond, privately, of decrying the messaging, the narrative, that comes from our leaders these days of being positional instead of visionary and pragmatic.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 1, 2010 at 8:02 AM - 64 Comments
Michael Ignatieff proposes senate reform.
Ignatieff proposed a 12-year term limit on Senate positions and an arms-length committee tasked with vetting candidates. ”I’d even go as far as to limit the prime minister’s prerogative to appoint senators. That is, I’d pass (appointments) through a public service appointment commission, so we scrub it and get the best possible appointees.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, January 29, 2010 at 9:22 AM - 14 Comments
In 1985, opposition leader Bob Runciman was part of Frank Miller’s minority government. He recalls Rae was instrumental in engineering the Tories’ downfall. Miller was in a weaker position than Stephen Harper, because the Liberals had won slightly more of the popular vote and Miller’s margin of victory was only four seats. The NDP — with Rae as leader — held the balance of power…
As last week’s parliamentary shenanigans unfolded, Runciman got in touch with his Conservative colleagues on Parliament Hill to give them the benefit of his experience. ”I immediately sent my friends at the federal level my encouragement to prorogue the House, because one of the mistakes we made was not resisting,” he said.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, January 11, 2010 at 4:38 PM - 25 Comments
Picking one of the excuses offered so far, a former House of Commons procedural clerk explains why a two-month break isn’t necessary.
One of the Conservative government’s given reasons for proroguing was to obtain a majority on Senate committees, which can only be reconstituted by resetting Parliament. But Mr. Hall said the timing of the Prime Minister’s decision doesn’t necessarily fit with that objective.
“If they wanted to reset the Senate committees, if that’s their excuse, all they had to do was prorogue just before Parliament comes back and then start the new session a day or two later. It would have still killed all the legislation, but if their excuse was well we had to do this because of the Senate, well you don’t have to do it for two months,” he said.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 1:27 PM - 43 Comments
Peter Stoffer was apparently unpersuaded by Mike Duffy’s taunts last week.
“I’m responsible to 91,000 people in the riding of Sackville-Eastern Shore. He’s responsible to the prime minister of Canada, and that’s it,” Stoffer told CBC News on Tuesday.
“When you don’t have a constituency and you’re nominated or appointed by the prime minister, you get to travel the country to do the prime minister’s bidding. I don’t think tax dollars, money, should be going in that particular route.”
By Philippe Gohier - Monday, October 19, 2009 at 6:39 PM - 12 Comments
As I was watching my beloved Habs drop yet another game last Thursday—seriously guys,…
As I was watching my beloved Habs drop yet another game last Thursday—seriously guys, Colorado?—the same Loto-Québec commercial kept coming on every time there was a break in the game. There wasn’t anything inherently interesting about it except for one of its stars: Jacques Demers. Pardon me, make that Senator Jacques Demers.
Apparently, Demers’s gigs at RDS, the Senate, and the car delearship just aren’t paying the wealthy former coach’s bills anymore. Besides, God forbid he be asked to sacrifice a paycheque or two in exchange for the six-figure salary he’ll be earning in the Senate.
Though I think highly of many individual senators, I’m not enamoured with the Senate as an institution. Stephen Harper, on the other hand, evidently loathes everything about it. What else could possibly explain the nomination of a barely-literate former hockey coach-cum-analyst with no discernible knowledge of (or interest in) politics to the Senate? And what else could justify telling him he shouldn’t even bother pretending to take the job seriously and turn down two-bit opportunities to hawk lotto tickets and used cars? Seriously, I’d love to know.
UPDATE: A Liberal reader emailed to note that Demers had an especially hard time making up his mind when the issue of VLTs, which add more than a $1 billion to Loto-Québéc’s bottom line, came up in the Senate earlier this month. Demers has—oddly enough, given his role as Loto-Québec pitchman—expressed some interest in tackling problem gambling, most recently on Tout le monde en parle. Still, he ended up abstaining from a vote on a Liberal-supported bill that would have restricted where the terminals can pop up after he was gently reminded by fellow Tories his party wasn’t in favour of it. “Of course,” he told CP by way of explanation, “I want to be a team player for the Conservatives.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 at 10:55 AM - 3 Comments
The Star’s Joanna Smith gazes upon the Senate, survives to report back.
In the back row, her fellow newbie Patrick Brazeau puts away his package of photocopied news clippings in time for oral questions, only to become engrossed in a game of what appears to be Sudoku.
Senator Mike Duffy, who ambled in a little late to sit down in his seat closer to the centre of the row, soon looks up from his mobile device to notice the lone individual sitting in the press gallery – usually an abandoned space outside of throne speeches and constitutional squabbles of decades past – and begins consulting with a nearby colleague about what she could possibly be doing up there.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 7:53 PM - 47 Comments
The Scene. Dominic LeBlanc was speaking in his grand stage voice, the sound of his second question filling the chamber, when the shouting started.
In the first row of the north visitors’ gallery, three nuns, or at least three women clad in the outfits of nuns, were chanting something unsavoury about the seal hunt, each holding a banner that read “The Seal Slaughter is a Bad Habit.” Get it?
The Speaker called for a pause in proceedings and all turned to gape at the spectacle. While security officers struggled to contain the invaders, Conservative Steve Blaney stood and held aloft a binder, apparently wrapped in seal skin. MPs stood to applaud their colleague’s brave choice of office supplies. Liberal Gerry Byrne crossed the floor to happily shake Blaney’s hand.
Security eventually gained control of the situation—the nuns handcuffed and carried away, each still yelping their protests as they were shown the door—and the Speaker called on LeBlanc to continue his casting of aspersions on government efforts to ease trade between Canada and the United States.
It has only been three days and already it has been a fine first week back for our 40th Parliament. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 15, 2009 at 4:09 PM - 45 Comments
Liberals employ an antiquated form of transportation to make a point about something.
The Bureau Blog had to ask: “You’re standing in front of a horse and buggy with a big banner, and you’re saying you’re taking the high road?”
“Uh… yes we are,” Mr. Easter replied. “We’ve always taken the high road. We’re outlining the facts in terms of Stephen Harper and his word.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 8, 2009 at 11:59 AM - 14 Comments
Richard Albert bravely makes the case for senators Finley, Stewart-Olsen and Plett.
That the prime minister chose to reward party stalwarts should come as no surprise. If ever there were an immutable law of political leadership, there it is, in full bloom. Patronage, neither a good thing nor a bad thing, is the lifeblood of politics, a simple fact of conventional political practice. But what critics failed to appreciate is that Harper’s choice of Finley, Olsen, and Plett reflects principle, not patronage…
Sure, the Harper troika exercised immense power in their respective roles as advisers to the Conservative party and the PMO. True, they were all close to the centre of the political universe. And it is certainly undeniable that they now take pride and pleasure in serving in the august Senate, one of the greatest privileges in Canadian politics. Yet none of these reasons was the impetus that spurred them to action years ago when the Conservatives had not yet even been reunited and a return to 24 Sussex seemed virtually impossible.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 31, 2009 at 2:54 PM - 54 Comments
Dale Smith sings the praises of the Governor General, then goes ahead and makes a case for the Senate.
Our political life is richer for having someone like Michaëlle Jean in it. It’s the same for the makeup of the Senate – we have a far more diverse, representative slice of Canadian society in the Upper Chamber because of its particular makeup than we do in the Commons because as it stands, our electoral politics still self-selects toward the model of the authoritative straight white middle-aged man. But rather than denigrate it like many Canadians do, we need to embrace it for what it offers us, and the way that it can help us to connect to our political culture.