© Guardian photo by Teresa Wright
Egmont MP Gail Shea in her Charlottetown office
Fisheries Minister and Egmont MP Gail Shea says she does not believe the controversy surrounding P.E.I. senator Mike Duffy is giving the province a black eye, but worries it may be breeding cynicism about politicians.
In a sit-down interview with The Guardian late last week, Shea said she did not want to comment directly on Duffy’s involvement in the Senate expenses scandal, but did say she fears it will discourage Islanders and Canadians from entering politics.
“I don't know all the details, who’s right and who’s wrong and what happened. I’m sure that will all come out in time,” she said.
“But what it does do, which is not good, it paints politics and all politicians in a bad light and probably discourages some really good people from getting involved in it.”
Over the last few months, as more details have emerged about Duffy’s housing and general expenses through media and police investigations, many residents of Prince Edward Island have expressed concern the controversy may be reflecting badly on the province as whole.
Shea said she believes these fears are unfounded.
“I think that anybody who is thinking intelligently will know that one bad apple doesn’t spoil the barrel.”
But Shea does worry the scandal may be causing Islanders and Canadians to write off all elected officials as corrupt.
This is worrisome because the country needs good people to run for office, she said.
“It's important that we keep that in mind as all of this unravels, or comes to light — don’t paint everyone with the same brush,” Shea said.
“Just because people become politicians, they don’t automatically become bad people.”
On Friday, the Harper government announced Conservative MPs and senators will begin voluntarily disclosing more details about their expenses online.
This decision comes after Liberal MPs and senators began posting their expenses earlier this month.
Further steps will also be taken to develop a system for more transparent reporting of expenses by all parliamentarians in the future, government whip John Duncan said last week.
As a cabinet minister, Shea's expenses are already online. This new development will see her MP expenses now also posted, which she says she has no issue with.
She believes this is a positive change and a 'silver lining' in the midst of the spending scandal.
“There's always something good that comes out of a bad situation, and this is the good that will come out of a bad situation,” she said.
“We'll have permanent changes to how things are done in the Senate. There will be more accountability to Canadians.”