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This mess the Senate’s in

A legal opinion, a request from the NDP and a statement from Patrick Brazeau


 

The RCMP is apparently reviewing the Senate’s expense troubles and former senator Lowell Murray says the word “crisis” is applicable here. Meanwhile, Postmedia reported yesterday that the Senate’s internal economy committee was seeking a legal opinion on the precise nature of the Constitution’s residency requirement for senators, but that the Senate was not likely to release that legal opinion publicly.

However, the Senate should soon interpret the residency requirement to settle questions that have swirled for months and longer about Duffy but fellow Conservative Sen. Pamela Wallin.

Underlying that decision will be a legal opinion about the section of the Constitution dealing with senators’ qualifications. The Senate’s powerful internal economy committee has asked for the legal opinion, but it has not yet arrived at the committee’s table and it’s unlikely the conclusions will ever be made public.

This afternoon, I asked the office of Senator David Tkahuk, chair of the internal economy committee, why that legal opinion wouldn’t be released and have just now been told that the senator has no comment. But NDP MP Charlie Angus has written today to the Senate seeking a legal opinion that Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton apparently referenced and the legal opinion the internal economy has sought.

And now, Senator Patrick Brazeau’s office has released a statement that quibbles with the Senate’s findings against him.

On December 11, 2013, Senator Brazeau met with the sub-committee on Internal Economy to discuss issues pertaining to his primary residence. At that meeting, Senator Brazeau disclosed documentation and facts regarding that, in fact, Maniwaki, Quebec is his primary residence. As requested, Senator Brazeau provided his driver’s license, health card, income tax returns and voting information.

On February 26, 2013 Senator Brazeau met Deloitte auditors at which time additional information was requested. On February 28, 2013 the additional information was hand delivered to Deloitte. On April 15, 2013 Senator Brazeau once again met with the Deloitte auditors to answer any final questions they had.

On April 29, 2013 Senator Brazeau received a copy the draft report prepared by Deloitte. In that report, no conclusions were made regarding Senator Brazeau’s primary residence. Senator Brazeau was, nevertheless, deemed to have met all four primary residence “indicators.” Furthermore, the report states no false claims were made by Senator Brazeau.

Despite meeting Deloitte’s primary residence criteria and co-operating fully and completely, the Senate committee on Internal Economy tabled a report in the Senate Chamber on May 9, in which orders Senator Brazeau to repay the sum of $34,619 in living expenses and $144.97 in travel expenses.

It is unclear how the Committee could have come to this conclusion when there is no clear definition of what, for purposes of their own policy, constitutes a “primary residence.” Deloitte notes that the current Senate policy uses the following terms without any definitions – primary residence, secondary residence, NCR residence and provincial residence. The Deloitte report in no way finds anything untoward regarding the claims and documents filed by Senator Brazeau.

Additionally, Senator Brazeau has fulfilled his obligations in forwarding all relevant documentation requested by the Committee and auditors. It remains unclear if all other sitting Senators meet the primary residency indicators – which Senator Brazeau does — or if they were treated with the same scrutiny, rules, regulations and definitions.

As a result, Senator Brazeau will be seeking greater clarification and will explore all options to have this determination overturned by applying the current policies, rules and regulations pertaining to this matter including calling a public meeting of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy to explain their decision.


 

This mess the Senate’s in

  1. Louis Brandeis – Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

    • Do you ever have an original thought fleet through your cranium?

      • To be known as the commenter at MacLeans who frequently accesses quotation sites?

      • Don’t encourage him – I’ve seen some of those original thoughts. Scary.

    • And the Conservative Party your best friend when you’re in need.
      From my Toronto Star this morning, while still under investigation, Nigel Wright, chief of staff to PM, offered an agreement to Duffy to front him the money to pay back the public funds the Senator misappropriated.

  2. What REALLY bothers me is that in theory, the idea of a Senate is sound and something I want as a part of our democratic system. These knuckleheads though highlight one of the biggest flaws of our system…..that the rules were written at a time when integrity was something you took for granted people had and thus, the rules do not accomodate the current rule-bending lot we are forced to endure. I think that it’s not only time to close the ‘loopholes’ with residency and expenses….but also time to require a minimum educational and experiential level as well (enough with the patronage to low-rent flunkies). The PMO should still get to pick….but their choices have to be confirmed by a bi-oartisan committee…THERE’s the check and balance that ensures quality appointments….no more half-wits,no more toadies, no more people who can barely read…

    • My issues with the senate are:

      1) Senators are not elected. An elected senate should be a given in this day and age.

      2) The artificial notion of “regions”. This allows New Brunswick to have more senators than BC despite the fact that BC has several times the population of NB.

      • An elected Senate comes with its own problems with ethics (campaign financing and influence peddling for instance) as well as representation (First past the post vs. other models). Regional representation is intended to balance interests of less populace areas against the more populated areas so doing the same with the Senate would just compound the issues with under-representation in the lower house.

        I don’t think the Senate works particularly well now, but that’s not addressed by doing more of what we have already in the H of C where the priority on all sides is the 4-5 year election horizon, not the long term health and sustainability of the country.

      • A senate need not be elected any more than judges or police chiefs. We elect the people who appoint them. If we don’t like the appointments, we need to take it out on those appointers

        • Senators are appointed “for life” (i.e. until age 75). Thus we can take it out on the PM as much as we want, but we would still be stuck with bad appointees until they hit 75 or decide to retire on their own.

          Additionally, judges and police chiefs are involved in enforcing, interpreting, and arbitrating the rules and laws. Whereas the Commons and Senate are involved in crafting the rules and laws. This is a crucial difference between the 2 groups, and the one, IMO, that makes it imperative that the people have a direct say on who make up the Commons and the Senate.

          At any rate, I’d ask why not apply the same logic and just directly elect the PM and have him or her appoint MPs and Senators? If we don’t like the PM’s choices, we can take it out on him/her at the next election.

    • The rules are not the problem.
      You are correct to suggest that we can not trust politicians to possess integrity…this is a result of entitlement and a lack of accountability, not antiquated rules.
      The rules are not the problem…those who try to skirt them are. When they are caught, they must be removed, regardless of any claim to positive contribution. Only by providing a deterrent can these problems be weeded out. Paying back money they should never have claimed is insufficient.
      These people are, quite rightly, held to a higher standard. In return, they have a job for life, and a funded retirement. There are no excuses.

    • Exactly. Laws and institutions are only as good as the willingness to uphold them.

      Harper has made it a travesty, and now everyone is pointing fingers at the outcome of his willful appointment of total whack-jobs, instead of laying it square at the feet of the helmet-headed dictator.

      Of course, to realize this requires some long-term political memory, which is an anathema…

      • You’ve not forgotten a certain Senator who, despite being diagnosed with dementia, continued to “serve” in the Red Chamber (to the point of voting on legislation) until quite recently? Considering the cast of slippery red-tie “whack jobs” that have peopled the Chamber for the better part of the 20th century, yours is a double-edged lament.

        • Name the red-tie whack jobs that have been appointed during the Chretien and Martin years and point to their resumes.

          I can name a handful from the Harper years that have dubious qualifications at best. Even Mulroney wasn’t that blatant.

          • Raymond Lavigne, Sharon Carstairs, to name but two.

  3. There is nothing confusing about the question ‘where do you live’.
    Anyone who does not understand this question, or who requires ‘clarification’ should be immediately removed from the Senate.
    Most Canadians see this for what it is; out of control entitlement.
    I wonder if the same such ‘confusion’ surrounds other questions – those that do not involve reimbursement of funds?
    People at this level are supposed to be smarter than the average Canadian…claiming confusion or lack of clarity is an insufficient excuse.

  4. I don’t think there is a single province where the population is demanding the creation of a second legislative chamber.

    • I don’t think there is a single province that is a federation. All provinces are unitary states.

      • So now Duffy is really representing PEI? Can’t think of a single Senator who actually represents a region, but I’m sure you can find a few.

        • Well, there’s theory and there’s reality.
          In theory, MPs represent their constituents; in reality, they are largely meat puppets for their party leaders/PMO. Shall we toss the HoC and just vote for the dictator of choice?

          • Sadly, I think that’s what most people do already.

          • Good point. But still Senate with length of appointment, means of appointment seen as a far more unrepresentative of geography than House where members do accomplish constituency work. No?

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