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What is a senator’s business?

Possibly the most interesting question raised by the case of Pamela Wallin


 

Global and Dale Smith muse on the questions about “Senate business” raised by the case of Pamela Wallin.

The CBC delves into some of Ms. Wallin’s specific endeavours.

Wallin said she believed it was part of her job to say yes to invitations to a lot of events on a wide range of issues. So she claimed expenses for attending a speech by former British prime minister Tony Blair in Toronto in 2010 on the war in Afghanistan. Same goes for a meeting with the Nature Conservancy of Canada, about environmental issues in Saskatchewan, or for a flight back to Ottawa in May 2011 to attend a reception at the prime minister’s house to celebrate a National Arts Centre program called Prairie Scene.

Deloitte auditors ruled all of these events were personal in nature, not Senate business, just some of the travel claims she is now being ordered to repay. But Conservative Senator Hugh Segal disagrees. “She would not have been invited if she wasn’t a senator from Saskatchewan, and the notion that she wouldn’t be supportive to represent the best of arts in the Prairies when they’re coming to Ottawa for a major exposition would be unlike her or any other senator,” Segal told CBC News Tuesday.

Conservative Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen argues for some kind of provincial distinction.

Stewart Olsen said it is her personal view that if senators travel outside the provinces or territories they represent, the reason should be tied closely to regional interests. “It seems to me that if I was meeting with someone outside the province, then it really should be, to my way of thinking, someone or something that could benefit my province. In other words, not just because it was interesting, or that kind of thing,” Stewart Olsen said Wednesday, adding that other senators who take up causes that have a broader scope would view things differently.

The easiest line to draw might be the one rules out the expensing of strictly partisan business (the NDP’s Paul Dewar went ahead Wednesday and wondered aloud why senators even sit in party caucuses, though that strays a bit from the immediate issue), but otherwise this has the potential to get rather complicated.

One senator suggested to me today that this presents an opportunity for senators to explain the work they do and its value. This is the one aspect of the Wallin affair that might be relevant to the larger questions of the Senate’s purpose, utility and future.


 

What is a senator’s business?

  1. Under Harper will our Judges become partisan fundraisers for the Liberals & Conservative party?

  2. “None of your” is the response I’d expect. Followed by a “who let this rabble in here?”.

  3. Strictly partisan business …. well it may be the easiest to identify and deny reimbursements for it is very hard to put a definition on this and therefore stopping an expense submission which may get through and be reimbursed. Otherwise if it was easy to define the rules would already emphatically state what is a partisan event.

    The Provinces and Territories should be part of the approval procedure for their Senator’s Senate submitted expenses. The internal Senate committee approving expenses for Senators is to much of a scratch my back I’ll scratch yours and old boys network of doing business.

    If Saskatchewan were involved with checking/confirming Pamela Wallins expense submissions and wanted to make sure her expenses were representative of what Saskatchewan wanted their Senate member to be working on then that would have gone a long way to weeding out the dumb submissions that had been sent for approval and would have made sure that Pamela Wallin was held in check, performing duties as the Senator from Saskatchewan that they wanted her to be. Having to get an outside audit done for over $100K is a cost that, if the Provinces and Territories had been involved with approval of their Senator’s expenses, would not have been needed!

    If the Province or Territory believe the submitted expenses from their representative reflect what they believe their Senator should be involved with then the expenses would/could get approved to be reimbursed. If they feel their Senator is NOT representing the interests of their home Province or Territory then they could/would reject approval of those expenses.

    I also think the Provinces or Territories should be on the hook for paying a nominal 10% or 15% of the submitted and reimbursed expenses after they have been sitting on the review of said expenses. The Federal government covers the remaining 85% to 90% of the amounts of the expense reimbursements from the general revenues allocated to the Senate as they are doing now.

    With the Provinces and Territories included in the reviews and in the payments then we should have better oversight and controls of what expenses the Senator representing a Province or Territory will be compensated for, including perhaps some pet projects the Senator wants to be involved with, such as native issues or mineral rights or women’s rights or foreign ownership in Canada or environmental issues etc etc etc.

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