OTTAWA – The Liberal government’s point man in the Senate is going to have to do his job without all the money he says he needs for the position.
The Senate committee in charge of spending decided Tuesday that Peter Harder won’t get a dollar more than the $400,000 already allocated to his office as government representative in the Senate, even though he says he needs twice that amount to run the office.
Harder had asked for up to $886,000 to add to the $185,400 he already receives from his Senate office budget to handle the task of managing the government’s legislative agenda in the upper chamber, among other duties.
When he made the pitch, Harder said his request was no different than what previous government Senate leaders had received to pay for staff and research in their office.
In a report tabled Tuesday, senators on the internal economy committee agreed Harder needed more money, but not as much as his predecessors because he has no caucus to manage.
The decision still means that the Senate may have to find $800,000 or more in savings to handle the extra cost that wasn’t predicted when senators crafted this year’s Senate budget.
The Senate budgets annually for about 100 senators in the chamber during the year, although typically senators don’t use 100 per cent of their office budgets.
The seven senators Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed in March ate up about $3 million of the Senate’s $90.1-million budget.
The budget didn’t take into account the new setup in the upper chamber, with a government representative and his two deputies sitting with no direct connection to a party caucus. The extra cash for Harder, along with additional research money for the three independent senators making up the government’s leadership team — Harder, Diane Bellemare and Grant Mitchell — have left a squeeze on Senate finances to the tune of $778,248.
It’s possible that the Senate could find the money absent any new senators, but the government is expected to fill up to 19 vacant seats by September, which would soak up any extra money that could be used to cover the shortfall.
Senators on the internal economy committee heard the extra costs could be covered by cutting committee budgets and the money available to pay for travel for witnesses to appear before committees, but a final decision has yet to be made.