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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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Accountability for Public Expense’s

This post was originally going to be just about senators expenses but more revelations this week regarding MPs expenses have made me even more appalled at the volume of taxpayers money these “public servants” are spending or receiving for what I am increasingly believing to be less than stellar “service”!

Regular readers will know that I do not support the abolition of the Senate and believe it to be a necessary check upon badly conceived or worded legislation and particularly necessary in majority government situations. Never the less I cannot be anything but appalled by the recent revelations regarding some senators expenses charged to the public purse. Some examples recently quoted include figures of $7,000 or more per day attended which I must assume is based not just upon expenses submitted but include their annual salary and is so high due to the low number of days they attended. I am not at all sure that this is a fair measure of cost in that like our MPs not all their work is done in Ottawa and we must remember that the senate does not generally sit (although I believe some committee work still goes on) when parliament is not in session. Remember that the government of the day has control over when parliament is in session and last year was particularly lacking in such periods!

Even so the allegation that “108 Senators spend 35% more in expenses in a single fiscal year than 308 MP’s.” is most disconcerting and does indeed need looking in to. I searched for both the report of the above salaries and expenses and what rules and limits exist regarding same on the Parliamentary web site without success. Perhaps a reader can provide a link to such information. It probably reported somewhere but as is the norm with our government (of all stripes) these sort of details are hidden in some obscure place which is where the affront to our democracy comes in. As highlighted in previous posts the lack of access to information or the obscuring of said information is to me just as troubling as what seems to be, to most of us average Joes, an obscene amount of public money spent for in some cases little on no services rendered.

Even as a supporter of the Senate I must join the call for considerable reform in the method of selecting senators, the term they serve, the pension to which they may then be entitled to and the control and limits upon their expenditures whilst in office. It may be that in following these various stories I am becoming overly cynical but could it be that our illustrious PM who has threatened numerous time to abolish the Senate, particularly when they took the time to properly study and critique legislation proposed by his government, planned it this way. Certainly one such recently appointed Conservative Senator whom some have referred to as “His Puffiness” and who has racked up over more than $44,000 in expenses (some reports say more ) in the 3 months since he was appointed, apparently promoting the Conservative government point of view, has done his share to demean and bring into disrepute the entire chamber and done much the increase the calls for its abolition. How much of his expenses were actually spent upon “chamber business” and how much on promoting the Conservative party of Canada is unclear but that too needs to be examined closely.

The above is bad enough but when we then also look at some of the expenses submitted or incurred by our MPs we must begin to wonder if these folk are living in the same world as those many Canadians who are out of work, living on minimum wage or their savings or otherwise supporting a family on just a small percentage of what these folk are spending on expenses. We must recognize here that much of this may well be legitimate expenses incurred doing their job however I am convinced that the average Joe could easily reduce these numbers. First class air fair and top notch restaurant meals are nice once in a while but hardly “necessary”, most private citizens on an expense account (those fortunate to have a job with such a thing) would have to pay for that type of upgrade out of their own pocket.

But I digress, The report that the MPs printing costs have doubled to TEN MILLION DOLLARS per year over the last 3 years was what was responsible for my outrage. That much of this expense was incurred in printing what most now recognize as partisan material by the government MPs in the form of an unprecedented volume of 10%ers makes it even more galling. Remember there were mailed out at public cost (MPs do not pay for mailing but it does cost Canada Post to provide this service for which we pay in one way or another) adding to the hidden costs . When we then also see that this same government has spent THREE MILLION DOLLARS in the last month advertising that they have an “Action Plan” but revealing no hard information that actually might be useful or informative to the general public then the numbers start to get totally unbelievable.

NEWSFLASH - Speaker of the House of Commons Peter Milliken recently said that the rules have been changed to allow partisan material on tax payer funded mailings. Where is the openness & accountability in this move?

Government, MPs of all stripes, Senators and indeed all public servants and their unions, must soon come to a realization that the public purse is NOT bottomless and ALL of them work for us and are paid out of our tax dollar. It is long past time that publicly available systems were in place to ensure that there is ACCOUNTABILITY for all this expenditure. Whilst the occasional revelation, such as the above hitting the news, does shake things up briefly, the need for timely (not 6 months after the end of the fiscal period) and fully accessible accounting of such expenditures be available to the general pubic is long overdue.

Accountability and Democracy go hand in hand, accountability cannot exist without access to information being open and accessible to the general public! Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

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