Senate spin

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And now, a brief example of the concept known as "shooting the messenger." While Canada's Senate staggers forward under the spending scandal brought about by honourable senators claiming housing allowances they did not deserve, it's interesting to see how those august senior politicians view the media who brought the situation forwards.

Here are a few samples from just one single day's debate in the Upper House.

Tory Senator Marjorie LeBreton, responding to a question from Liberal Jim Munson: "Those are the facts of the matter, Senator Munson. I know you are hoping that there is some coverup. That is not the case. What I have said today is fact. I know you are a journalist. I know you run around promoting conspiracy theories, but there was no conspiracy theory. There was no coverup, and neither the prime minister nor I knew anything about it."

Here's Senator LeBreton again, on seeing revelations about the housing allowance scandal come out in Canadian news: "I was like everyone else. I watch, God forbid, the news sometimes, and sometimes I wish I would not watch the news. As a matter of fact, lately, I have been watching CNN a little more than I normally do."

Or Tory Senator Claude Carignan: "Honourable senators, I believe it is important to stick to the facts here, not what is coming out of the media, which may subsequently be corrected by real witnesses."

It's an interesting take by appointed members of the Upper Chamber who have more than enough tools, if they wanted to set aside base partisanship, to call witnesses, compel answers and take action. Instead, we had senators standing to remind their fellows that "in camera" discussion of the events must be kept secret, on pain of punishment. We have had auditor's reports where significant details have been whitewashed out of the final versions presented by Senate committees as complete examinations of the cases at hand.

There are a significant - and growing - number of senators who are now speaking publicly about the need for immediate and substantial changes in the way the Senate operates, in order to try and gain some measure of confidence from ordinary Canadians.

It's all well and good to disparage the media for finding out details of the current imbroglio - after all, it must sting all senators to be tarred with the behaviour of their worst fellows - but it's also worth considering that, under the existing rules and procedures in the Senate, none of the current examination of senators' spending practices would have begun at all.

Safe behind their closed doors, senators have shown no interest in putting their house in order without substantial prodding.

Put on your grown-up underwear, senators, and follow the advice given by Tory Senator Hugh Segal on Tuesday and promptly ignored: "At some point, we in this chamber might want to consider inviting the auditor general of Canada to do a regular, comprehensive financial audit of this place so that the public can be reassured that we are subjected to the same standards as other parts of government."

Absolutely right.

Organizations: Upper House, Upper Chamber

Geographic location: Canada

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