It was reported on May 20 by CBC News that longtime Liberal Senator George Baker indicated that Senator Mike Duffy's scandalous actions had smeared the entire Senate. All due respect to Senator Baker, but where has he been for the past 20 years - hiding under the floor boards of the Upper Chamber? The Senate of Canada has been a joke since I was in high school and that was in the early 1960s.
Now that senators Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Mac Harb and others have tainted the hallowed halls of all those appointed by Liberal and Conservative prime ministers in years gone by, the public gets to see first hand why the Senate should be abolished. Senators are coming out of the woodwork now that all their expenses and claims may be audited. It seems they are trying to show how accountable and transparent they are. It's too little, too late.
The most recent to come out of the senatorial audit closet is Conservative Senator Elizabeth Marshall. Marshall, you remember, was the lone Conservative cabinet minister who stood up to then-premier Danny Williams and, for doing so, was awarded the Canadian lottery by Prime Minister Stephen Harper ($135,000 annually), a safe haven in the Senate of Canada. Why is she asking at this time the Senate Rules Committee to look at whether some of the additional pay she receives for extra work is appropriate? Who does that unless there is a significant reason? Is she afraid that an audit will find her out and that she, too, would be tarnished with the Duffy smell and be ousted from the Conservative caucus? Is she being paid too much? How many more are in the same situation? How long has this being going on? Marshall was quick to move and said in a recent interview that "What I said to them was 'I'm doing this job and I'm getting remuneration for it. It's now an issue, and you know, look at it and if it's an issue, fix it.'"
Marshall gets an extra $11,000 per year for chairing the Senate Selection Committee, which has only met twice in the past two years. Not bad work, if you can get it - and it seems you can get it often if you are a senator. Of course, much the same happens in every province with MHAs, MLAs and MPs. You want to increase your salary? Simply get assigned to any one or two of hundreds of committees and you get the jackpot. Accountability, transparency? How do you find accountability and transparency where there is none? Please, give us all a break. After all, we wouldn't want to smear the entire Senate or for that matter the House of Commons.
And the public is left to wonder in bowed amazement, why hasn't this bastion of the past been abolished? Who will step up and do the right thing? Abolish the Senate, ASAP. Conservatives and Liberals make up the Senate of Canada. You will never get them to abolish it. After all, their cronies are the ones who are sitting there. Some years back Prime Minister Harper indicated he would abolish the Senate. Has he done so? No. Currently, he is looking at Senate reform. Can we ever expect that he will abolish the Senate? Good luck waiting for that.
We're used to waiting in Newfoundland and Labrador on any decision from that government, especially one that makes any practical sense. Maybe it will be the NDP. They have no one in the Senate. What have they got to lose? Nothing! So, for the first time in Canadian history, Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair has boldly stated to Canadians across the country that, if elected, he will abolish the Senate.
He did not say he was going to reform the Senate. He said he would abolish the Senate. If we get that in writing, in triplicate, in a confessional, swearing on his mother's grave, cross his heart three times, and send a copy to every single voting Canadian, then the NDP may just get my vote the next time around. Of course, no promises.
After all, it's politics.
P.J. Dwyer writes from Gander.