A sad day for the Senate - Macleans.ca

A sad day for the Senate

A senator is audited, a former senator is denied parole

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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.