Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Next to Mike Duffy the ultimate in Canadian Senate "porkery!"

Senate Selection Committee could be the most expensive meeting on Parliament Hill

Althia Raj
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
OTTAWA — It could be the most expensive meeting on Parliament Hill.

Two senators are each pocketing several thousand dollars annually to head a committee that meets once a year – and sometimes not at all.

Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall, the Tory whip, receives $11,200 annually to serve as the chair of the Senate’s selection committee. That is on top of her $135,200 salary and the $11,200 she receives to serve as the Government’s whip. Her counterpart, Senator Jim Munson, the Liberals’ whip, receives $5,600 to serve as the vice-chair of the selection committee in addition to his $135,200 paycheque and the $6,600 he receives as whip.

The Senate selection committee last met – for 15 minutes – on June 9, 2011, right after the federal election. The meeting was to establish membership lists for all the Senate’s other committees, although, in actual fact, they simply rubber stamped decisions that the party leaders’ offices had already made.

The committee didn’t meet at all in 2012. It’s first meeting of 2013 is scheduled for Tuesday, a date that didn’t appear on the schedule until after HuffPost made inquiries last week about the committee’s work.

“For a committee where the chair is making $33,000 a meeting, it’s outrageous,” NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus told HuffPost.

Gregory Thomas, the federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, called the practice “unacceptable.”

It’s “ridiculous” to pay them annually for chairing a committee that doesn’t even meet some years, he said. “They need to give the money back right away. And they need to end the practice.”

Conservative Senator Don Plett told The Huffington Post Canada he was not aware that Marshall and Munson were collecting extra pay to preside over the selection committee. Plett said he didn’t get any money to serve as deputy chair of the weekly veterans affairs subcommittee.

“I think I should definitely get extra money,” he said half-jokingly.

There are a lot of rules that need to be changed in the Senate, Plett added.

Should chairs that do a lot of extra work be compensated? “I think they should, if they do a lot of extra work...There should be some overall reforms,” he said.

Marshall told HuffPost that “things can change” but that, right now, this is the way the Selection committee works.

“It’s in the rules of the Senate, and the salary is in the legislation, I can only tell you what I do,” she said.

Marshall said she views her role as committee chair as being one that ensures Conservative senators show up to the committees to which they are assigned, and she views her role as whip as being one that ensures that Tory senators are present in the upper chamber when they have to be.
Munson told HuffPost the same thing.

“Each side has a shared responsibility for the membership selection of committees, the daily management of the committees and their effective functioning. There are procedures in place where I can fill the committees on a daily or weekly basis. Memberships often changes. Because the work of the committees is of such value, I continuously monitor their work,” Munson wrote in an email.

Munson said his primary function as whip is “managing caucus for Senate sittings, votes, question period, helping prepare opposition policy, and office accommodation.”
Althia Raj is Huffington Post Canada's Ottawa Bureau chief. Based in the capital she was previously a National Political Reporter for Postmedia News. Ms Raj has covered Parliament Hill on and off since 2006 writing for QMI Agency and producing for CTV and CBC Radio's The House. An occasional contributor to The Corporation's National At Issue panel she can be contacted on Twitter under @althiaraj.


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