Monday, March 18, 2013

Canada, It's Time to Abolish the Senate!

Kathleen Wynne and the drive to abolish the Senate: Hepburn
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne can add a sentence to her throne speech and lead push for a national referendum on the future of Canada’s disgraced Senate.
Bob Hepburn, Politics,
Thursday, February 14, 2013
As Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne puts the final touches this weekend on her first throne speech setting out her government’s agenda for the coming months, she should seriously consider adding one more sentence.
Ontario's Lieutenant Governor David Onley, left, will deliver the throne speech on Feb. 19, 2013. Bob Hepburn says Premier Kathleen Wynne should consider inserting a sentence in the speech to push Ottawa to hold a national referendum on the future of the Senate.
That single sentence in the Feb. 19 speech should vow that Wynne will actively push Ottawa to hold a national referendum on the future of the Senate.
And if she fails to convince Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do that, then she should suggest she would conduct a non-binding referendum, timed with the next Ontario election, to send a message to Ottawa that voters are ready to abolish or reform the Senate.
With that lone sentence, Wynne would be doing a huge favour to all Canadians. She would be starting the movement — at last — either to get rid of our disgraced Upper House of Horrors or to make the expensive, undemocratic body more accountable to voters.
Wynne’s timing would be perfect.
That’s because for one of the rare moments in our history, voter attention is focused on the Senate.
Scandals that have surfaced in the past two weeks have thrown a rare spotlight on the Senate. First, there was the arrest of Sen. Patrick Brazeau on charges of assault and sexual assault. Next came the news that high-profile Sen. Mike Duffy, Sen. Mac Harb and Brazeau have claimed up to $22,000 in special housing allowances after they insisted their prime residences were outside of Ottawa, which they may not have been.
Finally, Canadians are outraged by the antics and waste displayed by our unelected senators, who often act, as NDP MP Charlie Angus told The Canadian Press, as an unaccountable “secret society.”
Indeed, a fresh CP/Harris-Decima survey conducted Feb. 7-10 in the wake of the scandals shows that a growing number of Canadians, some 32 per cent, want the Senate abolished. That’s up from 27 per cent in a similar poll conducted two years ago. It indicates that for one of the first times the same number of people want to abolish the Senate as those who prefer to see an elected Senate.
Ever since it was created in 1867, the Senate has been held in low esteem.
As author Claire Hoy wrote in his 1999 book titled ,Nice Work: The Continuing Scandal of Canada’s Senate,Canadians see the Senate “as a useless, expensive, undemocratic appendage of government. All too often they view it, accurately, as a refuge and dumping ground for bagmen, party apologists and failed politicians. Most Canadians agree that the place is overdue for change.”
The reasons for abolishing the Senate overwhelm the arguments for “reforming” it, such as having senators directly elected by voters.
First, there is no real need for an upper chamber, elected or not. None of the provinces, which pass more legislation that directly affects people’s lives than Ottawa, have a Senate and none of them see a need for a chamber of “sober second thought.” In fact, about half the world’s countries operate nicely with a unicameral legislature.
Second, provincial premiers — not unelected senators — are the true defenders of regional interests, which is cited as a key reason for the Senate’s very existence.
Third, it costs well over $100 million a year to operate the Senate, including the $132,000 annual salary for the 105 senators, their staffs and expenses.
For that, senators need to show up for work barely 70 days a year. Not bad, eh?
In return, Canadians get a few Senate committee reports that could easily have been prepared by university professors or private think-tanks for a fraction of the cost. Worse, few, if any, of these reports have any more influence on government policy than a high school student’s civics essay.
Admittedly, it will be difficult to abolish the Senate. It will take agreement by both the House of Commons and Senate, along with the approval of the provinces. It could take years, leaving some to wonder, “Why bother?”
But it’s not impossible.
In 1951, after years of work, New Zealand abolished its equivalent of our Senate. Here in Canada, Quebec got rid of its Senate in 1968.
Just because it may be hard is no excuse not to try. Pierre Trudeau, for example, overcame huge opposition and managed to patriate Canada’s Constitution and win approval for the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982.
For decades, Canadians weren’t mad enough to demand major changes, all the way to abolition, of the Senate. With these latest scandals, they are ready now.
In next Tuesday’s throne speech, Wynne will focus mainly on jobs, the economy, the teacher dispute and health care. That’s the right decision because those are Ontarians’ priorities.
But by also pushing for a national referendum on the Senate, Wynne can make history as the leader who kick-starts the movement toward abolishing an outdated, costly national embarrassment.
It takes just a single sentence.
Bob Hepburn’s column appears Thursday. .
Senate expense controversy: All quiet at Mac Harb’s Westmeath home
Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau reporter
Thursday, February 14, 2013
WESTMEATH, ONT.—The Christmas lights were still up and shining at the riverside house of Liberal Senator Mac Harb in this small town northwest of Ottawa, but nobody was home.
Liberal Senator Mac Harb is one of four senators whose expense claims are being examined by external auditors.
The Star travelled the bumpy and narrow roads to see the pale blue brick all-season home about 150 kilometres from Parliament Hill on Wednesday, following several unsuccessful attempts to interview the Ontario senator about the house and other properties he owns in Ottawa.
Harb, 59, is one of four senators whose expense claims are being examined by external auditors as part of an ongoing internal investigation into allegations of improperly claimed travel and living allowances.
The others are Conservative Senator Mike Duffy and Independent Senator Patrick Brazeau, whose living expenses are under the microscope, and Conservative Senator Pamela Wallin, whose travel expenses are being scrutinized.
There were some signs of recent life at the house at the end of the short tree-lined trail Wednesday.
The dish rack beside the kitchen sink, easily visible through the glass panel in the front door, was filled with dishes.
A snow shovel was propped up against the front entrance, and the driveway and pathway to the door appeared to have been cleared within the past couple of weeks.
That made it stand out from the log cabin atop the small hill next door, where the driveway was buried beneath several feet of snow, and the empty house next door to that one.
Nobody answered the door at three other homes that did look to be inhabited throughout the winter months, but a neighbour found at the Westmeath Recreation Centre said she seldom sees anyone at the house.
“I don’t even know what he drives,” said the woman, who did not want her name to be published.
Another woman who knows the street where Harb owns a home very well at first thought the Star must have had the wrong address because she was sure she would know if a senator lived there.
Harb has lived in Ottawa since the 1970s, when he was a municipal politician before becoming the Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre in 1988.
He held the seat until former prime minister Jean Chrétien brought him into the Senate in September 2003, when, according to debate records, he was officially introduced to his colleagues in the upper chamber as a new senator from Ottawa.
Senators are allowed to claim up to $22,000 in living expenses — including accommodation, meals and incidentals — per fiscal year when they are in the national capital region on parliamentary business, on the condition their primary residence is farther than 100 kilometres away.
Harb claimed about $40,212 in living expenses for a secondary residence in Ottawa from Nov. 30, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2012, according to quarterly expense reports the Senate publishes online.
He claimed a further $14,530 for travel expenses between Ottawa and his principal residence over the same two-year period.
Property records show Harb purchased the Westmeath home for $300,000 in November 2010 and that he owns another property in nearby Muskrat Lake, Ont., which he bought for $5,400 in 2007.
Harb has not responded to requests for an interview about where he lives, but his office has told the Ottawa Citizen that he listed his primary residence in the region.
Records also list Harb as the owner of several properties in Ottawa, including some units in a condo building on Prince of Wales Dr.
The postal code for that address matches the one listed for a Mac Harb who has donated to the Liberal party over the same time period the senator was claiming secondary living expenses.
The Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy decided to review secondary living expenses following allegations in the media last year some senators were not playing by the rules.
Mercy for the senator: Fiorito
The behaviour of Senator Patrick Brazeau is a clear sign that he needs help.
Joe Fiorito, Columnist
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Patrick Brazeau is a jerk.
He has, in the past, been cavalier with his child support payments. He tweeted that the reporter Jennifer Ditchburn was a bitch. His mocking of Chief Theresa Spence was both crude and hurtful. His attendance record in the Senate has been miserable. He’s also reported to have lied to the people of Canada about where he lives in order to enrich himself.
He paid a price for his hubris when Justin Trudeau famously knocked the stuffing out of him in a boxing match. And now he is facing charges of assault and sexual assault.
What to do about him?
Ask anyone whose brother is in trouble. Ask a mother whose son is weak and vain. Ask a father whose boy will not do right. And yes, ask any woman who has ever loved a man who caused her pain.
Brazeau needs help.
So does anyone he may have hurt.
Alas, this is what our prime minister has said: “Obviously, the situation with Senator Brazeau is terrible.” Duh. “It is extremely appalling, disappointing. We all feel very let down.”
Note to Steve: It’s not about you.
The prime minister continued: “The events that we’re speaking of here are very recent in nature. Obviously, over a recent period, something has been going very wrong and that is the reason for the situation that has developed.”
Wrong again.
A spin-out like this takes years to develop in full, and our prime minister knew that there might be trouble when he appointed Brazeau to the Senate.
What shall we think of Harper now, when his first instinct is to cut and run? In doing so, he is simply trying to wash his hands of his own crass calculations.
But what about the rest of us, who want to abandon a man when he needs our help the most?
I admit that my own first instinct was to sneer. I despise the cruel, the weak, and the handsome who are hurtful, just as I am disgusted by those who throw away their gifts.
And then I looked at my own life, and at the lives of those I love. I now think this is what the PM should have said:
“The Senator is obviously in trouble. It is painfully clear that something has gone wrong in his life.
“Our first instinct is to bring the full weight of our resources to help the people he may have harmed.
“And then, because we love him, and because we have invested in him our hopes for a better future, we must do what we can to help him in his life, so that he may begin to right his wrongs and repair the harm he has caused.”
That is the quality of mercy.
And now here is something that ought to be obvious to all of us who are sniffing at the scent of blood: every major company in the country has an employee assistance program, there to help a worker with a drinking problem, a drug problem, a behavioural problem. What’s wrong with the Senate? Why did no one step in and intercede?
I believe that a man who goes bad — and Senator Brazeau has been going bad for a very long time — is a man who needs help.
Few of us are born weak. All of us are born human.
Sometimes, when great expectations are placed on our shoulders, we crumble under the pressure. Sometimes we are hurt when we are young, and that hurt causes lifelong harm. Sometimes we lack a chance to develop proper judgment as we grow.
Let us not abandon him, and let us not forget this: if Brazeau needs help, so do the people he may have hurt.
Prime minister, over to you.
Joe Fiorito appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper defends Senator Pamela Wallin’s steep travel expense bill
With four Senators facing outside audit, NDP Thomas Mulcair says it's time the Mounties also looked at Senate spending practices
Les Whittington and Bruce Campion, Smith-Ottawa Bureau
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
OTTAWA—Prime Minister Stephen Harper stepped into the Senate spending controversy Wednesday, defending Senator Pamela Wallin against mounting questions about her travel expenses, even though an outside audit of her claims is ongoing.
Senator Pamela Wallin, seen here Monday at a National Security and Defence committee meeting, blames Senate accounting rules for distorting her travel expense figures.
Harper was forced to answer for his high-profile Senate appointee against NDP attacks after revelations her expenses were under the microscope.
The prime minister told the Commons that he had personally reviewed Wallin’s travel claims and that they appeared in line with other politicians.
“I have looked at the numbers. Her travel costs are comparable to any parliamentarian travelling from that particular area of the country over that period of time,” Harper said.
Wallin, who represents Saskatchewan in the Senate, was swept up in the spending controversy after revealing that outside auditors were reviewing her travel expenses.
However, a key official in the upper chamber says Canadians may never know the outcome of that independent probe being done by Deloitte.
“We’re not interested in making those public,” said Conservative Senator David Tkachuk, chairman of the Senate’s committee on internal economy, budgets and administration.
“If there’s something that will have some impact on the public business, then they will be public. Otherwise, there’s no point to it,” he said.
Tkachuk said the audit is underway and that he didn’t know what the results were. Asked if Wallin had repaid any expenses, he replied, “no.”
“I don’t have an agenda on Senator Wallin. Senator Wallin is a distinguished senator and there’s an audit being done on her expenses. That’s all there is too it,” he said in an interview.
While Wallin claims to live in Saskatchewan, published travel expenses suggest she may not be visiting very often.
Over a two-year period ending last November, Wallin claimed only $29,423 for expenses to travel between Ottawa and Saskatchewan, a category billed as “regular” travel. In one quarter, she claimed no expenses for Saskatchewan trips and in another she claimed just $90.
By comparison, some of her Senate colleagues from Saskatchewan have claimed upwards of $200,000 for travel back to the prairie province.
However, Wallin is one of the big spenders for travel to other parts of Canada and around the globe, claiming $321,027.
Senate communications staff refused repeated requests by the Star to get clarification on the expense categories.
Wallin blames the Senate accounting rules, saying only direct flights between Ottawa and a senator’s home province are counted as regular travel. Instead, she says she often flies to Saskatchewan from other parts of the country, including Toronto where she owns a condo.
“If I fly through Toronto and overnight there en route to Saskatchewan it is booked as ‘other’ travel. That why numbers are distorted,” Wallin said in a statement to the Star.
Wallin suggested that Deloitte has not asked her to repay any money and that had she offered. But she did not respond to questions about whether she had already repaid money directly to the government.
In the Commons, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus raised questions about whether Wallin’s primary residence is actually in Saskatchewan, as required by Senate rules, or Toronto.
“The growing Senate scandal now includes Pamela Wallin, who racked up massive travel bills, often to Toronto, when she claims to live in a cabin at Fishing Lake, Saskatchewan,” Angus told MPs.
“I looked at the land title for that cabin and it lists as its owner Ms. Pamela Wallin of Palmerston Avenue in Toronto,” Angus told MPs. “Is she the senator for Saskatchewan or for the Annex?”
Three other Senators are also being investigated by Deloitte for claiming housing expenses in the nation’s capital.
Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, who represents Prince Edward Island, Independent Patrick Brazeau (Quebec) and Liberal Mac Harb (Ontario) have claimed their principal residence is outside the national capital region, entitling them to housing allowances of up to $22,000 a year.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said Wednesday it’s time the RCMP looked at the questionable spending practices by a handful of senators.
“Any time there’s a question of breach of law, it’s to be left to the police, of course,” Mulcair said after his party’s weekly caucus meeting.
“We think that in the interest of all Canadians, we have to reassure the public that the law applies equally to everyone.”
He said he doubts the public will “ever get a straight answer” from the Senate, another reason why what he called “a relic from another era” should scrapped altogether.
With files from Tonda MacCharles

Senate votes to force Brazeau into leave of absence

Senators have voted to force Sen. Patrick Brazeau, who is facing criminal charges, to take a leave of absence from the upper chamber.
Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau reporter
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
OTTAWA—Senator Patrick Brazeau sat in the upper chamber Tuesday while his colleagues voted to force him on a leave of absence and control his ability to spend public money as he faces criminal charges.
Senator Patrick Brazeau is escorted out of the Parliament Buildings Tuesday after he was put on leave from his duties by the Senate.
“No,” the 38-year-old Quebec senator said loudly when senators were asked whether they agreed with a motion to order him to take a leave of absence until further notice.
The motion was adopted with the overwhelming agreement of senators. Brazeau then walked out of the Senate chamber and was driven away after being chased by a throng of reporters.
“In order to protect the dignity and reputation of the Senate and public trust and confidence in Parliament, the Senate order a leave of absence for the Honourable Senator Brazeau to last until this order is rescinded,” read the motion put forward by Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton and seconded by Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan.
The motion also gives the Senate standing committee on internal economy the authority to suspend Brazeau’s “right to the use of some or all of the Senate resources otherwise made available for the carrying out of his parliamentary functions.”
Brazeau will continue to receive his $132,300 salary.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper expelled Brazeau from the Conservative caucus after learning he was arrested at his Gatineau, Que., home last Thursday.
Brazeau was charged Friday with assault and sexual assault and released on $1,000 bail. If he pleads guilty or is convicted, the Senate could choose to suspend him without pay. He could also resign.
“Let’s not presuppose what happens,” Cowan, who acknowledged being surprised that Brazeau showed up Tuesday, told reporters. “There is a presumption of innocence in this country and this order continues until it is rescinded.”
Brazeau was already under fire for being one of three senators whose living expenses are being investigated by external auditors because they claimed tens of thousands of dollars for their time spent in the national capital region despite evidence in media reports they live there most of the time.
The others are Conservative Senator Mike Duffy and Liberal Senator Mac Harb.
Tuesday night, in the latest development in the Senate expenses controversy, CTV News was reporting that Sen. Pamela Wallin was being audited for “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in travel expenses in recent years.
According to Senate records, Wallin, who represents Saskatchewan and has a home in Toronto, has claimed $321,000 in “other travel” expenses since 2010.
In an email to the Star late Tuesday, Wallin said: “The (CTV) story is inaccurate. If I fly through Toronto and overnight there en route to Saskatchewan it is booked as ‘other’ travel. That’s why numbers are distorted. I have not appeared before committee and no repayment has been sought nor offered.”

Senate leaders wants misspent living expense money paid back

The Conservative and Liberal leadership in the Senate is putting their colleagues on notice by asking the committee auditing living expense claims to step up their investigation.
Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau reporter
Monday, February 11, 2013
OTTAWA—The Conservative and Liberal leadership in the Senate want the committee investigating
living expenses to ramp up its probe and order any colleagues suspected of cheating to pay back the money.
Government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton, pictured with Tory MP Peter Van Loan in 2007, and Senate Opposition leader James Cowan are asking a senate standing committee to interview each senator who claims living expenses for a secondary residence in the region “to confirm the legitimacy of such claims.”
Government Senate leader Marjory LeBreton and Senate Opposition leader James Cowan sent a joint letter to the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy on Monday suggesting their original probe into living expenses will not go far enough.
The committee began examining the living expenses senators claim while spending time in the National Capital Region following media reports last year that three senators — Conservative Senator Mike Duffy, Liberal Senator Mac Harb and now Independent Senator Patrick Brazeau — billed taxpayers for tens of thousands of dollars despite living nearby.
The committee originally asked senators to provide proof of primary residence, giving them the option of presenting copies of their health card, driver’s licence, income tax return or a declaration as to where they voted, by Jan. 31.
Now, LeBreton and Cowan are asking the committee to interview each senator who claims living expenses for a secondary residence in the region “to confirm the legitimacy of such claims.”
They also recommended consequences for anyone whose story is suspect.
“Should any senator be unable to convince you that the claim is valid, that senator should be required to repay immediately all monies so paid with interest,” they wrote in the letter.
They urged the committee to investigate quickly and make the results public, because the reputation of the Senate is at stake.
“We believe it is vital for the reputation of the Senate and those senators who are in full compliance with our rules and regulations that this determination be made as soon as possible and that the result be made public,” LeBreton and Cowan wrote.
Senators are allowed to claim up to $22,000 in living expenses — including accommodation, meals and incidentals — per fiscal year when they are in Ottawa on parliamentary business, so long as their primary residence is more than 100 kilometres away.
The Senate revealed last week that it has called in outside auditors to investigate the expenses of Duffy, Harb and Brazeau.
Duffy, the senator representing Prince Edward Island, claimed about $42,802 in living expenses for the National Capital Region between Nov. 30, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2012, according to quarterly expense reports.
He claims that his cottage in Cavendish, P.E.I. is his primary residence, but the provincial taxation office shows Duffy and his wife, Heather, are considered non-residents and property records show they own a home in Kanata, Ont., about 22 kilometres from Parliament Hill.
Harb, a former Ottawa city councillor and MP, claimed about $40,212 in living expenses over the same period. Harb owns a home in Westmeath, Ont., about 150 kilometres northwest of Ottawa, as well as several condominium units in Ottawa.
Brazeau, who was expelled from the Conservative caucus last Thursday after being arrested and charged with assault and sexual assault, claimed $36,701 in living expenses from March 1, 2011 to Nov. 30, 2012 for his home in Gatineau, Que., while claiming he lived primarily with his father in Maniwaki, Que.
The Gatineau home where he was arrested was the address listed on the charge sheet when he appeared in court Friday.
Senators are expected to vote Tuesday on a motion to force Brazeau on a leave of absence.
Duffy’s ‘neighbours’ in P.E.I. say they haven’t seen the senator
Controversy rages over Senator Mike Duffy’s residency declaration, as P.E.I. residents say it’s obvious his cottage isn’t a year-round home.
Mitch MacDonald, Special to the Star
Saturday, February 09, 2013
CAVENDISH, P.E.I. — Nestled behind a layer of trees, Senator Mike Duffy’s cottage is barely visible from Morgan and Debbie Eisenhaur’s year-round residence on the north shore of Canada’s smallest province.
Morgan Eisenhaur stands on his back porch and points to Mike Duffy's residence in Cavendish, P.E.I. Eisenhaur and his wife, Debbie, have never met the senator, nor even seen him.
While Duffy’s residence is just a small, snow-covered field away, the Eisenhaurs have never met their neighbour, who is one of three senators in the midst of an audit involving their residency declarations and related expenses.
Aside from never having bumped into Duffy in the community — either during the busy summer months or in the long, cold winter — the Eisenhaurs said the dirt lane leading to his cottage and several others is not maintained during the off-season months.
It’s obvious the cottage isn’t being used as a year-round residence, they said.
“The fact he’s calling it his primary residence is a bit of a joke,” Debbie Eisenhaur said. “It’s an insult to all of P.E.I. and all Canadians.”
Added her husband: “We don’t consider him a permanent resident because he doesn’t live here.”
Information from the provincial taxation office backs up what the Eisenhaurs are saying.
Duffy and his wife, Heather, who also own a home in Kanata, Ont., get garbage collection only six months of the year at their Cavendish residence.
They are listed as non-residents and pay 50 per cent more land taxes than someone classified as an Island resident. To qualify for the lower tax rate on P.E.I., property owners must reside in the province for 183 consecutive days.
Despite this, quarterly expense reports show that Duffy claimed $42,802 in living expenses for the national capital region from Nov. 30, 2010 to Nov. 30, 2012.
Senators are allowed to claim up to $22,000 in living expenses — including accommodation, meals and incidentals — per fiscal year when they are in Ottawa on parliamentary business, so long as their primary residence is more than 100 km away.
Questions of Duffy’s residency were brought into question last week, when it was discovered the P.E.I. health department denied a request to fast-track a health card to the senator.
While Duffy initially ducked reporters on the issue of his residency, he released a statement Friday.
“As a Prince Edward Islander, born and bred, I am proud to represent my province and its interests in the Senate of Canada,” read part of the statement.
However, the Eisenhaurs, who moved to P.E.I. more than seven years ago and began developing year-long residencies at Cavendish in 2008 — the same year Duffy was appointed to the senate — said no one they know in the area considers him a member of the community.
Public perception is that Duffy is “milking” his position as senator, said Morgan.
“He’s doing something he shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “He’s stretching it. He’s supposed to be doing the right thing. You’re abusing it, buddy.”
If Duffy wanted to live in Cavendish year-round, it wouldn’t be hard, the couple added.
Despite largely being a resort municipality that swells to a population of thousands in the summer, the provincial government lists 266 residents as living in the area all year, including during snowstorms.
“We just wait it out,” said Morgan, pointing out that nearby Rustico has all the necessities required to live year-round, including a grocery store, gas station, several restaurants and a liquor store.
At the closest local coffee shop in Rustico, several patrons laughed when asked if they had ever seen Duffy in the area.
“Never,” said one Cavendish resident who asked to remain anonymous.
The controversy surrounding Duffy exists well outside of the senator’s own riding.
Media producer Perry Williams of St. Catherines, P.E.I., created a video spoofing Duffy that went viral this week.
The video, which is a parody of Environment Canada’s Hinterland Who’s Who public service announcements, depicts Duffy as having been “first discovered” in Ontario during the 1970s and says the senator “does migrate annually to its summer nesting grounds on the north shore of Prince Edward Island.”
Williams said while he thought the video might get a couple hundred hits, within three days it was approaching 17,000 views and had been featured on national radio.
“I’m glad the video is getting lots of play because it makes the point that he has been living in Ontario since the 1970s, so what’s he doing?” said Williams. “It’s ridiculous. It really is. There’s just so much about it that stinks.”
Williams said he feels there is much public interest in Duffy’s controversy because of his well-known former position as a broadcaster.
While Canadians in other provinces are just hearing about the questions surrounding Duffy’s residency, Williams said the question has been lingering in P.E.I. since the initial senate appointment in 2008.
“A lot of people just rolled their eyes and said ‘this is a bit of a joke,’ ” said Williams. “The guy doesn’t live here and hasn’t lived here any of his adult life. Sure he was born here but he pays non-resident taxes, his driver’s licence isn’t from here. So how can he possibly be a senator for P.E.I.?”
Perry said he hopes Duffy ultimately resigns over the issue, although believes that is unlikely.
“I can’t imagine it because he’s such a pompous guy,” said Williams.
The Eisenhaurs said they had heard questions raised in the past by Islanders over Duffy’s residency, and were happy the issue was now in the spotlight.
“He’s not doing the right thing. These guys are supposed to be showing leadership,” said Morgan Eisenhaur. “He should be embarrassed.”
Duffy told media in December that he purchased the cottage 15 years ago and recently spent $100,000 making it a year-round home.
When told how much Duffy said he invested into renovating his cottage, Debbie Eisenhaur could only laugh.
“I suppose it could be very elaborate on the inside, or he either completely gutted it then maybe you could put $100,000 into it,” she said.
“The Eisenhaurs are acquainted with construction costs on the island. They have been building large cottages in the area since 2008, all of which are suitable as year-round homes.
“To put $100,000 into that cottage he has over there, I really don’t know how you’d do it,” Morgan Eisenhaur said.
Critical mass building to abolish senate: Hébert
The behaviour of senators recently has made people beyond the senate’s traditional opponents call for its abolition.
Chantal Hébert, National Affairs
Friday, February 08, 2013
History will eventually tell whether this was the week when public fatigue with the Canadian Senate passed the point of no return.
What is certain is that the abolition of the upper house is well on the way to being upgraded from a Plan B dearest to the heart of the NDP to the Plan A of a critical mass in the country’s political class
— possibly including Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself.
The latest controversies involving a handful of senators potentially playing loose with the upper house’s honour system and — in the case of Patrick Brazeau, also crossing the line into Criminal Code territory — have once again cast a disreputable shadow on an unloved institution.
The behaviour of senators like Patrick Brazeau have brought the need for the institution into question.
The fact that Mike Duffy and Brazeau were hand-picked by the current prime minister to sit in the Senate and happen to be Conservative household names only compounds the damage.
But this week’s developments are just the latest in a series that is turning outright abolition from the path less travelled to the preferred route for dealing with a colonial-era federal institution.
Over the past decade Ontario — under a Liberal government — has added its influential voice to those calling for the abolition of the Senate.
At the same time the proabolition NDP has expanded its reach into Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Despite an influx of New Democrats from the two regions of the country that are said to be most attached to the Senate, there is no indication that the party is under pressure to tone down its senate stance.
But perhaps the most significant sea change has taken place among the chattering classes in Western Canada.
In the region that has long been the source of the momentum behind the drive to reform the senate, the reality that its provincial makeup is unlikely to be rebalanced through a constitutional amendment any time soon has sunk in.
To move to an elected senate in the current circumstances would amount to enhancing the legitimacy of a house that distorts the demographics of the country in favour of the smaller provinces.
But just how hard would it be to abolish the Senate? The short answer is: harder than many abolitionists would like, but not necessarily as impossible as some are claiming.
The Harper government is asking the Supreme Court to chart a constitutional path to a variety of senate reform options. Significantly, abolition is on the list.
No one expects Canada’s highest court to tell the federal government that it can unilaterally do away with one of the two houses of Parliament.
But the court might find that the support of seven provinces accounting for more than 50 per cent of Canada’s total population would be sufficient to abolish the Senate. Such a finding would free the federal government from the shackles of provincial unanimity.
And then most of the analysis that dismisses the abolition of the Senate as impossible starts from the premise that Quebec and the Atlantic provinces would never support it. Yet there is scant evidence that Quebecers, to name just of the constituencies that are professed to want to hold on to the upper house, are more attached to the Senate than Ontarians.
The other obstacle is a deeply entrenched reluctance to step back into the constitutional minefield. But abolishing the Senate — even as it might require a high degree of provincial approval — would not demand the kind of prolonged negotiation that reforming the institution would.
When one is taking down a house, there is no need to haggle over a new interior design.
If Harper wanted to get the abolition ball rolling, his government could introduce a constitutional amendment in Parliament.
The provinces would then have a three-year window to get on board. If enough of them did, the amendment would succeed.
But one way or another, the country would at least finally have the conversation it deserves on the future of the Senate.
Senate votes to suspend Andrew Thompson
Friday, November 13, 1998
The Senate found truant Senator Andrew Thompson in contempt of the upper chamber on Thursday and took the historic step of suspending him without pay for chronic absenteeism. The vote was 52 in favour, one against and one abstention.
It's the first time in the Senate's 130-year history that it suspended one of its members and stripped him of all pay and perks.
The Senate found the Ontario Liberal in contempt of the upper chamber for not complying with orders to come to Ottawa to explain his attendance record.
Thompson loses his $64,400 salary and $10,100 tax-free expense allowance. He lost his Senate office and other privileges in December.
If Thompson wants a paycheque, he could resign and collect his collect his $48,000 annual pension.
Tory Senator Terrance Stratton, who voted against the suspension, said the penalty was too lenient. He wanted Thompson expelled as did Senator Ron Ghitter of Alberta who walked out of the red chamber rather than vote.
Manitoba Senator Sharon Carstairs said Thursday's attendance was poor because many senators are ill and two Senate committees are on the road.
Thompson sent a fax to the Senate on Wednesday. In it he said he was too sick to appear at the hearing to explain his poor attendance.
The Liberal Senator is 73 years old and the suspension would last until he has to retire at age 75.
It stopped short of recommending he be expelled, citing possible constitutional complications.
"At no time have I wished to be in contempt of the Senate," Thompson wrote. "I respect the institution. When the doctors approve my fitness to travel, I will appear."
He has attended the Senate 47 times in the last 14 years and only 14 times since that GST debate in 1990.
He is not technically in violation of any Senate rule, because he has not missed two complete consecutive sittings.
He has also produced valid medical certificates to account for his absence. Under Senate rules, a member who produces a certificate is not considered to be absent.