Thursday, June 11, 2015

The sound of the Senate ..... "Oink! Oink! Oink!"

Good Day Readers:

Have you noticed no one has yet to ask when senators go running and squealing like stuck pigs at the public trough to arbitrator RoadKill Binnie, how much will he charge for his services and who pays? Should taxpayers pay for those who financially raped them?

Sincerely,
Clare L. Pieuk
Several senators to challenge Auditor-General's expense findings

Gloria Galloway and Daniel LeBlanc
Wednesday, June 10, 2015

More than half of the current and former senators who have not repaid funds the Auditor-General says they misspent or inappropriately claimed as expenses will challenge those findings to keep the money they say they do not owe to the public purse.

The numbers emerged as the NDP promised to make Senate abolition a key issue in the next election, fuelled in large part by the public’s negative reaction to Tuesday’s release of Auditor-General Michael Ferguson’s findings.

Mr. Ferguson revealed a series of cases of senators abusing the public purse by wasting taxpayers’ money or by getting the public to pick up their personal expenses. In particular, Canadians paid a number of senators to go on fishing trips, play golf, attend hockey games, go on holidays, own two homes or get a staffer to bring a personal car back home to Halifax from Ottawa.

Five of the 30 senators and former senators who were found to have improperly received funds have reimbursed that money in full. They include Claude Carignan, the Conservative leader in the Senate; Jim Cowan, the Senate Liberal leader; Senate Speaker Leo Housakos; Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton; and retired Liberal senator Vivienne Poy.

Mr. Housakos, Mr. Carignan and Mr. Cowan were involved in setting up the independent arbitration process – overseen by former Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie – in which senators will be able to challenge the findings of the Auditor-General.

While not all of the remaining 25 senators who have been told to repay funds could be reached for comment on Wednesday, and some of those who were contacted said they had not made up their minds or refused to say what they will do, 14 confirmed directly to The Globe or in written statements that they will rely on Mr. Binnie to determine whether they have actually taken money to which they were not entitled.

At least 12 senators have already repaid a portion of the funds the Auditor-General said was taken improperly. But many expressed resentment with the demands of the auditor and with the methods his office used to determine which members of the Red Chamber had violated spending rules. Senators argued that their evidence and input had been ignored and that the auditor did not fully understand how the Senate works or the requirements of their jobs.

At least one of the nine senators whose cases are so serious that the auditor said they should be investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said she will appeal to the arbitration process to see that that does not happen.

“I will give due consideration to the arbitration process with the Honourable Ian Binnie, as further details become available,” former Liberal senator Marie-Paule Charette-Poulin said in a statement. “I have managed my Senate budget and expenses in an ethical and professional manner and will vigorously oppose any attempt to refer my case to the RCMP.”

Liberal Senator Joseph Day said in a telephone interview that he has already prepared his letter for Mr. Binnie, but he is concerned that, even if he is cleared during arbitration, he may never be fully exonerated in the minds of the public.

“I don’t know how many people are forming opinions about the fact that my name is on a list without really knowing what it’s all about,” said Mr. Day, who has repaid one expense that was improperly claimed because “the rules had changed and I wasn’t aware of it.”

In his report, Mr. Ferguson said many expenses broke the Senate’s rules and should have never been approved. As a result, he said senators should no longer police their own expense budgets, calling for a new “oversight body” to approve the travel and living expenses of the legislators.

The audit has provided the New Democratic Party, the only major party to be calling for Senate abolition, with additional firepower in advance of the Oct. 19 general election. Speaking after a caucus meeting, Leader Thomas Mulcair promised to “work non-stop” to accomplish that goal – though it is not clear exactly how, since the move would require a constitutional amendment which entails getting the approval of all of the provinces.

“We’ll start with a mandate from the Canadian voting public and we’ll take that mandate across the country. I don’t shy away from hard work,” Mr. Mulcair told reporters.

The NDP does not have senators, which allows the party to attack both the Conservatives and the Liberals for the current situation in the Senate.

“Of course, the old-time parties – the [Liberals] and the Conservatives – who see this as an unlimited trough from which they can withdraw public money, from which they can get workers for their election campaigns, they’re going to try to fight to keep the Senate,” Mr. Mulcair said. “The Canadians that I meet from coast to coast to coast want to get rid of the Senate.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said earlier this week that his government would not reopen the constitution, given the proposal would be doomed to fail in the face of the opposition of provinces such as Quebec. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the next election should be about issues such as “jobs, climate change and the path forward” instead of another round of constitutional debates.

Both Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau say they would support an auditor-general’s review of all MPs’ expenses.

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