I will not dwell in great length upon the ongoing soap opera that is the 'Senate Scandal', there is quite enough commentary out there without my adding to it. I will instead examine how and why such thing are even possible in a 'democracy' and I contend that it is, at least in part because the 'rules' are not clear, documented for all to see, and that no clear penalties exist for those ignoring the rules and conventions that do exist.
Be it what does or does not constitute a legitimate expense for a
senator, or an MP for that matter, and whether partisan content in a
speech makes the travel to that event non-elegable as an expense, or
if a governments advertising promoting itself and giving little real
other information is acceptable on the taxpayers dime, the 'rules'
are unclear. There is little or no oversight, there are no set
penalties for abusing the system or even a way, in a majority
government situation, of bringing the government, the senate or the
prime minister to account other than in the court of public opinion.
It may well be that the senate can remove appointed members from
their seat but it is pretty clear that as it is now proceeding it is
far from an independent and equitable process. I have no great love
of the conservative senators currently under examination but it is
pretty clear that both their appointment and the attempt to fire them
is a purely political decision and has little to do with the real job
of senators to closely examine and recommend changes to proposed
legislation. In this instance Ms Wallin is correct when
she says “The Government has truly put the
cart before the horse – the sentencing before the trial – and
that is why it would be both unfair and troubling if his motion
If it does, each and every one of you will seriously have to
consider whether this is a place of sober second thought, or a place
where anyone who enters must blindly follow a political master’s
dictates. ” That is not to say that that is not what she and
most other conservative senators have not been doing for years and
continue to do as we speak. It is not even about unacceptable
expenses, which there is not much doubt did occur, it is about were
the rules clear from the start, were these senators encouraged to
bend the rules or told (by the PMO or Senate Leaders) that everything
was OK. If not why did not those responsible for signing off on these
expenses pass them through for payment without question, or were they
too blindly following a political master’s dictates.
Which brings us to the lies part of the equation, it has become
standard practice to deny any wrong doing whether it has in fact
occurred or not. This is hardly a new phenomenon in political circles
“plausible deny-ability' is a fixture in government across the
world but our current regime seems to have brought it to new heights,
along with the old adage that 'if you say it often enough it becomes
true'. It used to be that if the principals involved destroyed any
paper trail the matter became a he said she said debate which could
be sloughed off in most cases. With the advent of email and
electronic communications it is much harder to 'destroy all evidence'
and even the most powerful may not be able to wriggle out from under.
It remains to be seen just how much off the 'evidence' in the current
scandal will come into the public purview, we have hardly been
overwhelmed with such documents in the robocalls
election fraud case or any of the other Harper
regime messes and spending fiasco’s. We can only hope Duffy, who
says this current scandal goes all the way to the top, and others
fight dirty and shows their hands to the press, the RCMP obviously
cannot and will not release documents in an ongoing investigation.
To sum it up, there are few rules governing the actions and
spending habits of either our politicians or governments, there are
few penalties for those who break or ignore the rules that do exist,
and there is little the opposition or general public can do to stop
such abuse except to wait for the next election and try and elect
honest and principled representatives. And that is increasingly
becoming an oxymoron!
We are reliant upon the MP's, The Prime Minister and his cabinet,
and the Officers of Parliament to have due regard for our Parliament
traditions and unwritten rules of conduct, unfortunately such
reliance upon these individuals to respect out democracy no longer is
sufficient. The only good thing about the current Senator Expense
Soap Opera, about what in the scheme of thing is a piddling amount of
money – probably less than the daily budget for Harper's self
promoting ads, is that it may signal the start of some parliamentary
reform. But NOT under this government if you want to retain some
semblance of democracy, and not without Provincial
approval it would seem.
A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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