Tories, Liberals unite in bid to salvage Senate’s tarnished reputation

The Canadian Press
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Conservative and Liberal leaders in the much-maligned Senate are joining forces to salvage the upper chamber’s tarnished reputation.

They are demanding a swift — and public — resolution to allegations that some senators are abusing a housing allowance meant to compensate those who keep a secondary residence in Ottawa.

The Senate’s internal economy committee has been investigating the allegations and last week called in an outside auditor to scrutinize three cases — involving Conservatives Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau and Liberal Mac Harb.

In a rare show of bi-partisanship, government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton and Liberal Senate leader James Cowan have written the committee urging it to interview senators who have claimed the allowance in order to confirm their claims.

LeBreton and Cowan say that if a claim is found to be invalid, the senator in question should be required to immediately repay the money, with interest.

They say the Senate’s reputation is at stake, so it’s “vital” that the matter be resolved quickly and transparently.

“We believe it is vital for the reputation of the Senate and those senators who are in full compliance with our rules and regulations that this determination be made as soon as possible and that the results be made public,” the letter reads.

The Senate’s reputation was further sullied last week when Brazeau was arrested after a domestic incident and charged with assault and sexual assault.

The housing allowance controversy has been bubbling for more than two months, following reports that Brazeau, Duffy and Harb have been collecting the allowance even though their primary residences are in the national capital region.

The controversy has evolved into an even bigger question for Duffy: Is he eligible to sit in the Senate at all?

In addition to calling in external auditors at Deloitte to examine the three senators’ residency declarations and expenses, the internal economy committee is seeking legal advice on the question of Duffy’s residency.

The controversy has evolved into an even bigger question for Duffy: Is he eligible to sit in the Senate at all?

The Constitution requires that senators reside in the provinces they were appointed to represent. Duffy represents Prince Edward Island and, although he’s claimed his cottage on the island as his primary residence, neighbours and provincial records suggest he spends very little time there.

The internal economy committee last month requested that each senator who claims the secondary residence allowance provide proof that their primary residence is not within 100 kilometres of the capital.

Senators were required by the end of last month to produce copies of their health card, driver’s licence and income tax return and a declaration as to where they vote in federal, provincial and municipal elections.

In a scramble to meet the deadline, Duffy requested an expedited P.E.I. health card but the provincial government turned him down. Provincial tax records show Duffy and his wife are identified as non-resident owners of their island cottage.

 

Geographic location: Ottawa, Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • David
    February 12, 2013 - 23:48

    How come the other 3 Senators from PEI seem very quiet? Why are they not saying anything about Duffy or about the Senate or reform. Sure looks like they are just guilty as Duffy but they just have not been caught yet. The silence from the other 3 Island senators in this issue is deafening.

  • AMAZED
    February 12, 2013 - 11:31

    Wowsers! Look at these senators trying to clean up their act.If you live 100 KMs. outside Ottawa you can claim up to $25,000. a year.Duffy boosted $42,000 since Sept 2010.For the poor slob on Pogey you are expected to travel 100 KMs one way to get minimum wage.Harpers version of Let Them Eat Cake.I will have a $16 glass of oarnge juice with that cake please.Self-entitled prigs.Everything is cut and gouged except the Fat Cats, they get more while we work longer for our Old Age Pension.Very classy people...not.

  • Sick'n'Tired
    February 12, 2013 - 09:04

    The senate can't handle the decision "Has fraud been committed?" But they are right ready to decide on the punishment "Should be required to immediately repay the money, with interest." Restitution is certainly appropriate, to right the wrong, and reimburse the tax payers, but what about punishment for the crime committed? They seem to have conveniently forgotten about that aspect.

  • Diane Chabot
    February 12, 2013 - 08:45

    This institution definitely needs to be abolished and fast. I wonder what Harper was thinking when he appointed Brazeau. As for Duffy, when these people are appointed, they learn how to cheat taxpayers. I worked for a senator for 10 years and saw it all, the wasted $$$ as well as abuses that senators (men and women) put on their staff (things were kept hush-hush and people were bought out) and those abusers are still there. So Brazeau and Duffy, do the right thing and resign.

  • If This Is
    February 12, 2013 - 07:59

    If this is what it looks like FRAUD then they all should be charged & sent to jail like any other citizen of Canada would be treated .

  • Vote them in
    February 12, 2013 - 07:38

    It is my fervent belief that as a Canadian Citizen I not only have a right, but a DUTY to vote in elections. I believe Senator Duffy should resign ;or if he does not do so he should be removed from the red chamber. He may be an Islander by birth, but that is it. I think we do need a second chamber for checks and balances, but one that is voted in. Funny how gov't wants to fix their budget mistakes on the back of the working civil servants but the politicians, EX's and other management positions are always safe. Look at DVA, cuts , cuts and cuts to the worker bees, yet three more EX positions at huge salaries were announced.....

  • voter
    February 12, 2013 - 04:41

    people don't wan't the senate but politicians are uniting to save it -- POLITICIANS should UNITE to abolish the senate ---but that won't happen ----just how many DECEITFUL FACES does the average politician have !!!SAD !!!

  • David
    February 11, 2013 - 23:35

    Solution is simple...SEATE REFORM..have an elected Senate. But for now remove Duffy and Brazeau and anyone else who has committed fraud and lied about where they live. The damage to the Senate is done they need to show they are serious about reform and fixing the problems. Just brushing over them and allowing these three criminals to remains in the Senate just shows they will do anything to keep their places at the trough.

  • SG
    February 11, 2013 - 22:08

    What is the purpose of the Senate? 105 Senators with yearly Salaries of $132,500. in addition to Living Expenses, Speaking Engagements and retirement pensions! The Senate should be Abolished. I had no idea Pamela Wallin was a Senator.

    • UPWESTER
      February 12, 2013 - 07:12

      When you have 105 Senators sitting around doing nothing, why do you have to bring in an outside auditor to do their work? This is not ground breaking territory. The question is did Duffy et al qualify for this allowance. The rules are in place, just make a descision. Why do we have to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to see that someone is feeedng at the trough?This is what they were elected to do.Oh wait, silly me, they weren't elected.

  • Charlottetown Observer
    February 11, 2013 - 22:01

    Of course they are uniting to salvage the Senate's reputation because they don't want the public to start questioning the whole institution so they will throw the little piggy out to distract while they continue to gobble at the trough. I have no sympathy for Duffy, he knows how greedy he was and now he's going to pay but do not be fooled Canadians. This is just a little PR damage control.

    • dm
      February 12, 2013 - 00:09

      sad but very true

  • Pius from BC
    February 11, 2013 - 20:52

    Out here in BC, I would like to see the Senate abolished. Another point, the triple E Senate will never work because PEI would have the same number of Senators as BC. We have 4, 500,000 million people as opposed to 140 000 population on PEI. In short, the Senate has to go.

  • Bmac
    February 11, 2013 - 19:49

    They want to "Salvage the Senates tarnished reputation"??? Don't they really mean - Salvage those $132,000 salaries & expenses? Of course that's what they mean! A spin can be put on anything in politics. I often wonder - Is it that they think they are smarter or that we are stupid or --- both? As Forrest Gump said "maybe it's both happening at the same time"

  • Lloyd MacLeod
    February 11, 2013 - 19:38

    Ha Ha Ha what a joke they are. They cannot agree if it is night or day most of the time. Now they unite to keep their cushy jobs. Get rid of all of them. They are nothing but a drain to the taxpayers of Canada. I doubt 20% actually care about the country.There is probably some honest ones but they are few and far between. Like all politians there is some honest ones but where are they? Very few in Canada in my view.

  • Gerry
    February 11, 2013 - 19:30

    United we (Liberals and Conservatives) stand, divided (we) fall. Better stick together because the optics aren't looking very good for either party, senate or no senate. The senate has always been a farce, this just proves it.

  • bill kays
    bill kays
    February 11, 2013 - 18:39

    When you have the auditors out why stop at the senate? We need the highest offices in the land audited to rebuild faith in the system. Why fuss if there is nothing to hide?

  • intobed
    February 11, 2013 - 18:32

    Mike Duffy was journalist who lived in Ottawa and reported on politics for over 30 years. Imagine the greed, corruption, and just plain "entitlements" he has seen in that time. When Harper made Duffy a senator, Duffy naturally figured he would be able to do the same thing, and he was able to get away with it for over four years. While I don't condone it, I can certainly see how his disgraceful attitude came about.

  • AD
    February 11, 2013 - 18:30

    Wouldn't everyone show a united front if your $132,000 annual salary for 69 days in session was threatened? The upper chamber has definitely outlived its usefulness; particularly now that Premiers do most of the tasks that were traditionally considered Senate responsibility. It was created in an era of disconnect. Its relevance is not valid any longer. If it truly gave sober second thought to Commons bills that would be one thing but rubber-stamping can be done by anyone. Given that most of the problem-children were under Stephen Harper's watch - the most vocal opponent of the Senate in recent history - there's little hope that this group will ever be more than an arena for political patronage.

  • Joe Blow
    February 11, 2013 - 18:27

    I'll believe it when I see it! Once Senators and politicians start giving up some of the perks they have with their jobs and actually start doing things for ALL Canadians and not just the ones they are in business with...then I'll believe what they are saying.....otherwise they are just lying politicians! Another thing....the Conservatives and Liberals put Canada in the mess its in right now.....they owe it to Canadians to fix things and right all the wrong they have done!!

  • johnny cash
    February 11, 2013 - 18:22

    Just make me sick , another excuse for a 2 party system to feed at the trough. Funny how the hogs unite to save themselves.

  • fedup
    February 11, 2013 - 18:08

    Rare is right, seems like Tories everywhere are scrambling as a loose lipped Duffy may begin pointing fingers at others. I smell corruption, perhaps more should be scrutinized for spending habits on the backs of taxpayers everywhere.