Advice delivered to Conservative senator Don Plett by an official of the federal Department of Finance when the senator requested information on his own expense spending parameters. Certainly there was written instruction on what would and wouldn’t be appropriate, but that verbal definition of what qualified as allowable expense spending for senator Plett begets many questions. Is it reasonable to suppose only one senator received this expense spending definition? Is it reasonable to expect only one senator from the current lineup of appointees to the Senate was thusly advised?
Is it more than likely additional members of Canada’s Senate were told to proceed as though there exists a constant open season on expensing? If that were the case, wouldn’t it be likely such a model of approved non-accountability stretches back years? Clearly, the focus of Senate hearings into the proposed suspensions without pay (at this writing) of senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau has been intended to paint them as sole abusers of expensing claims. What I have heard from listeners across Canada is that they are not buying into the “it was these three only” spin.
That issue should be dealt with when a review of spending by members of Canada’s Senate currently underway under the direction of the current federal Auditor General is completed and made public. Ontario senator Bob Runciman, who supports posting expense spending online and shared with me that he will be doing this going forward, suggested the Auditor General’s mandate includes a retroactive review of expensing claims by senators. The key word there is ‘retroactive’. Promises of posting expenses online going forward have been made in Ottawa. That’s simply not enough. A retroactive audit of expense claims by members of Canada’s Senate must be followed by a similar review of members of parliament. For Canadians whose interest in this issue is reflected by spiking media listener and viewer numbers twin audits are a no-brainer.
Are Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau just the tip of a massive mess floating in increasingly murky waters? British Labour Party MP Tom Harris is aware of what is taking place in Canada’s Senate and suggested on air that what is taking place here today is “almost identical” to what occurred in the U.K. prior to the 2009 national scandal surrounding MP and House of Lords expensing practices. Practices which saw in Harris’ words “many careers end in ignominy”, as well as resulting in at least a few parliamentarians being sent to prison. In fact, at the provincial level and just this month, former Nova Scotia MLA Trevor Zink was sentenced to four months in prison for fraudulent expense submissions.