A sad day for the Senate - Macleans.ca

A sad day for the Senate

A senator is audited, a former senator is denied parole


While Pamela Wallin’s whereabouts and paperwork were being scrutinized, here was the scene at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.

Former Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne wept and begged to be sprung from the Innes Rd. jail on Tuesday where he remains locked up for defrauding the Senate.

Shuffling into the damp chill of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre’s worship room with only an ill-fitting orange jumpsuit for warmth, he settled gingerly into a white plastic lawn chair to face the two-member Ontario Parole Board panel.

The findings against Mr. Lavigne included inappropriate mileage claims and having his research assistant cut down trees in his yard.

Mentioning of Mr. Lavigne and Ms. Wallin in the same sentence is to not to suggest that their situations are of the same nature. I suppose that will now be for the RCMP to decide. That they should be the subject of unfortunate headlines on the same afternoon is coincidence, of course.

Last night, Dan Gardner suggested that the cases of Ms. Wallin and Mike Duffy were “sad.” There is probably something to that, and the scene in the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre seems to to rise or sink to that adjective as well. Everything that has befallen the Senate over the past year is, at the very least, unfortunate. And ridiculous: that we should have to be fussing over housing allowances and travel itineraries. But here we are.

After today’s release of the audit of Ms. Wallin’s expenses, Liberal Senator George Furey was asked whether he found this embarrassing.

I find it very difficult. And it’s not just difficult personally, it’s difficult for the institution that we represent, and it’s difficult for all my colleagues. Colleagues that I spoke to during the summer tell me that everywhere they go they’re being mocked, and they find it very, very difficult. And it’s a difficult time for the institution, no question.

Asked if anyone would want to be a senator at the moment, Senator Furey said he wouldn’t think so. He later offered that this is “an opportunity for us as senators to get out there and explain to the Canadian people what it is we do and why it is we think we’re valuable … and if at the end of the day Canadians decide that they want to reform the Senate or even if they want to abolish it, then so be it if that’s the will of the Canadian public.”

It is probably difficult to summon much sympathy for the average senator, but I suppose I’d be happier heaping scorn upon the chamber and its member for some matter of public policy or something to do with the fundamental nature of its existence. And we are not yet clear of all this. There is still an auditor general’s investigation to be conducted. And RCMP investigations to be concluded, one way or the other.

For now, tonight, CTV’s wondering if they’ll take down the sign in Wadena.


A sad day for the Senate

  1. It might be more appropriate to just transfer
    “The Home of … ” sign to 24 Sussex.

  2. I have to admit, I was wrong about Pamela Wallin. In previous posts, I postulated (sorry) that she had been filing expense claims as Senate business that were actually Conservative campaign business. It turns out I was wrong. She was filing every bit of business she attended, be it Conservative campaigning, Porter board of governor, book judging, or, I presume, none of your, business. My apologies to Ms. Wallin for underestimating the scale of her Senate expense claim imagination.

    On a completely different note, I see that she did file several expense claims for mileage driving from Wadena to other parts of Sasketchewan to attend Conservative campaign events. So, while those expenses were erroneous and should have been directed to the Conservative Party coffers, at least she does live in the place the represents, at times. Unlike that other CTV Senator.

  3. The senate has served as a valuable check on parliamentary power in the past, but as long as the qualifications of appointees are as party bagmen (or women), or defeated politicians this will be increasingly rare.

  4. Over $100,000 a year and if you can just be honest about expense claims on your generous account you’re head and shoulders above a big chunk of them? Who WOULDN’T want that job, Mr. Furey?

  5. What about that discussion with Macleans held in Washington, D.C. a few years ago where Wallin appeared to be quite defensive/supportive of the PM?

    Senate business? Expensed? Anyone at Macleans check the dates?

  6. this shouldn’t even be about the senate. it should be about the person who hired them. its call judgement(I sailed on many ships in my life, and the buck stopped with the skipper), and that day is coming for the man who hired these money grubbers. I wonder, is harper collecting commission from all these fraudsters and hucksters he has hire to clean out the Canadian taxpayer treasury. maybe we should be doing an audit on harper.

    • I didn’t realize that Harper appointed Mac Harb or Mr. Lavigne to the Senate. Who knew?

  7. I figure a whole lot of people would take a job as a Senator if offered. Why wouldn’t they?

    Sure, some Senators are being hounded somewhat over their expenses, but even a Senator paying all of their expenses out of their own pocket is doing much better financially than the average Canadian.

    A Senator’s base salary is $135,200 a year. Even if Wallin had paid the $130,000 or so of inappropriate expenses (over 3 years) out of her own pocket, she’d still have had almost $92,000 of her salary left each year. The median FAMILY income in Canada in 2010 was $69,860. By my math, that means that for a Canadian family with one breadwinner, said head of the household could take a job in the Senate, comply with the expense rules carefully enough to satisfy a big public Deloitte audit, and they’d STILL be getting a $22,000 a year raise.

    Raise your hand if you think that being a Senator would be too difficult for you compared to your current job if it meant a $22,000 a year raise.

    I’m pretty sure that in order to think that the embarrassment of what’s going on today would be enough to prevent a person from accepting a $135,000 a year job, you have to already be making $135,000 a year.