P.E.I. Senator Percy Downe.
P.E.I. senator says Canadians want transparency from all Parliamentarians, not just Upper House
Many members of the House of Commons, especially Prime Minister Stephen Harper, must enjoy the special attention being given the expense reports of senators in recent months by the federal auditor general. It satisfies the PM’s agenda to discredit the Senate as much as possible these days, since he was forced to order the banishment of three Tory Senators last year over expenses issues.
The Senate agreed to allow an audit of its expenses after Conservative senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, and former Liberal senator Mac Harb, were found to have claimed inappropriate expenses. The three Conservatives were suspended without pay in November while Mr. Harb had earlier retired. The RCMP are investigating all four of them.
Mr. Harper’s three appointments came back to haunt him and embarrassing the PM is considered the ultimate betrayal of trust. His senators were deemed expendable and despite vigorously defending them at first, Mr. Harper easily cast them to the sidelines without regret.
The PM had referred the Senate question to the Supreme Court, seeking guidance if the federal government could unilaterally reform or abolish the Senate. The court said no — to reform the Senate would need support of seven of 10 provinces with more than 50 per cent of the population, while eliminating the Senate would require unanimous approval of the provinces and federal government.
If the AG should find any more malfeasance and the RCMP should proceed with charges, it would provide the PM with more ammunition to convince the provinces to move forward on reforming or abolishing the upper chamber, or at least use the Senate as an election issue.
While the federal AG and his team of accountants are preoccupied with Senate expenses, they are not looking at the Commons and that suits the PM just fine. A P.E.I. senator wants to change that. Sen. Percy Downe says the same courtesy should also be extended to MPs. With the public demanding more transparency from its parliamentarians, MPs should be given the same treatment as senators. The argument from Mr. Downe makes perfect sense. If there has been abuse of taxpayers’ money, then there must be consequences, no matter where or whom.
Sen. Downe has moved a motion calling for MPs to invite the auditor general to conduct a comprehensive audit of expenses.
The AG is buried in his Senate investigation and despite months of checking the books, is far from his completing his work. He won’t have a Senate report done until early next year.
If he started looking into MPs’ expenses, any investigation or report wouldn’t be completed until long after the federal election in October 2015 in any event.
In pushing for an audit of MP expenses, Sen. Downe said every government department has to account for the money it spends so why should the Commons be treated any differently? Some lawmakers believe they are a law onto themselves. Regular audits would keep them honest and avoid improper expenses being charged to taxpayers. MPs have generous travel and expense accounts and don’t need to pad those accounts to make ends meet.
Sen. Downe said the audits should all be done at the same time in both the Senate and Commons. At this rate, there will be a surge in employment opportunities for accountants in Ottawa.
Sen. Downe said his call for an audit of MPs’ expenses doesn’t mean he thinks they are doing anything wrong, but he thinks the public has reached a point where it wants proof. An audit report from both Houses of Parliament is sure to be interesting reading.