Auditor general's report underlies need to dump a Senate of political hacks and moonlighting corporate directors

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      When Auditor General Michael Ferguson's report on Senate expenses is released later today, it will reveal how unelected political insiders have blown many thousands of tax dollars on their personal business.

      Some of the details of Ferguson's probe have already been released. The expense claims of nine current and former senators have been deemed worthy of a police investigation. Another 21 have been singled out for criticism, including senior members of the upper chamber. It's been suggested that $1 million might have been spent outside of the rules (as vague as they may be).

      The Conservatives' response has been to do nothing after the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that term limits on senators would require approval of seven provinces representing half the population.

      The Liberals have washed their hands of the actions of the unelected Liberal political hacks in the Senate after Justin Trudeau kicked them out of caucus.

      The NDP has maintained its long-standing call for abolition of the Senate.

      The Supreme Court of Canada determined that eliminating the Senate would require the approval of the Senate itself, as well as the House of Commons and seven provinces that collectively include half the population.

      It's amazing that in 2015, Canada still has unelected, overpaid senators ($142,400 per year), some of whom moonlight on corporate boards while voting on laws affecting millions of citizens.

      If it takes a constitutional amendment to dump the Senate, then let's get on with it.

      In light of scandals involving a multitude of senators, including Mike Duffy, it's not impossible to get seven provincial legislatures representing half the population to vote in favour of abolition.

      All it would take is for one member of each of these seven legislatures to introduce a motion. Who among their peers is going to put their political neck on the line and defend the indefensible?

      Similarly, MPs would look pretty foolish if they didn't follow suit.

      That would leave only the Senate left to justify its existence. And if none of its members introduced a motion, let the public protests begin.

      It could start with demonstrations and online campaigns. If necessary, protests and boycotts could then be launched against corporations that keep these unelected hacks on their boards.

      The labour movement could use its muscle to persuade pension-fund managers to bring forward shareholder resolutions at annual general meetings. Where there's a will, there's a way.

      The prospect of a Senate appointment is also a corrupting force on our media as an increasing number of members are being recruited from the broadcasting and newspaper industries.

      I used to think there was value in having a chamber of sober second thought filled with wise men and women who would review legislation. But many of these senators have demonstrated that they lack moral authority to do this.

      Besides, we already have a chamber of sober second thought in our country. It's called the Supreme Court of Canada.




      Jun 9, 2015 at 10:25am

      "Besides, we already have a chamber of sober second thought in our country. It's called the Supreme Court of Canada."

      An unelected oligarchy drawn from the ranks of the monopolistic law guilds in every province? Really? Why should we have a parliament at all, why not just let the Supreme Court rule is under the law? Statutes are for people who voluntarily join societies. After all, if the Supreme Court is an independent judiciary, clearly it is not subject to parliamentary law.

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      Tonia Kelly

      Jun 9, 2015 at 11:42am

      Great article, Charlie. It gets people thinking that Senate abolition might indeed succeed after this appalling mess. One small correction:
      For the fiscal year 2015-16, all Canadian Senators make a basic salary of $142,400, up from $138,700. They received a raise on April 1, 2015.

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      Charlie Smith

      Jun 9, 2015 at 12:43pm

      Thanks Tonia. I missed that raise. I changed the copy to reflect what you've written.

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      Jun 9, 2015 at 3:23pm

      The senate may never be abolished but it could be made to be less attractive as a reward to party fund raisers. Cut their entitlements by 75% and see how many still want to be part of the upper chamber. It is absurd to have the tax payer fund this kind of political reward scheme.

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      sylvia greier

      Jun 11, 2015 at 2:37pm

      failing total abolition, the House could simply defund the senate, starve it to would soon disappear.

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