Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Senate Should Swallow Hard and Accept Tougher Scrutiny

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Senate Should Swallow Hard and Accept Tougher Scrutiny

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Senate should swallow hard and accept tougher scrutiny

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An editorial from the Toronto Star, published June 11:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a Senate problem on his hands that just won't go away. The spending scandals that have erupted under his nose have discredited the Conservative brand and infuriated voters. And they aren't going away as a federal election heaves into view.

Canadians are fed up with the self-indulgent, unaccountable Red Chamber and its $89-million cost. Many have lost hope that it can fix itself. More want it abolished than want it reformed.

That sentiment will only be reinforced by the Senate leadership's tepid reaction to Auditor General Michael Ferguson's damning report on misspending, which dropped like a judicial verdict on Tuesday. Basically, it confirmed that the Senate can't be trusted to police itself.

Senate Speaker Leo Housakos and the Conservative and Liberal leaders paid the requisite lip service to Ferguson's call for more "oversight, accountability, and transparency." But they couldn't bring themselves to endorse his specific recommendations. The best they could come up with was a promise to "carefully consider" his views.

Indeed, they gave the impression that they have already resolved the big issue by appointing former Supreme Court justice Ian Binnie to adjudicate their disputes with the auditor.

That won't wash with the public. What's needed, as Ferguson rightly pointed out, is a wholesale culture shift. That requires a "transformational change in the way expenses are claimed, managed, controlled and reviewed," to provide the oversight, accountability, and transparency that are now lacking, he found. Many senators still fail to grasp that their expenses must be "justifiable, reasonable, and appropriate."

The Senate needs an oversight panel with a majority from outside the Senate to rule on the admissibility of expense claims, Ferguson found. Binnie's appointment, while "a step in the right direction," is just one element of a fix, Ferguson said. He also says his office should have a "clear mandate" to conduct regular audits to promote prudence in spending taxpayers' dollars. …

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