View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – More Canadian Senate Scandals for Stephen Harper – February 15, 2013

View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – More Canadian Senate Scandals for Stephen Harper – February 15, 2013

Keith Beardsley Dec 2012CFN – It looks like I wasn’t too far off base when in a previous blog I mentioned that Harper’s week dealing with Senate scandals could get worse. Indeed it has now that Senator Dennis Patterson is also under the microscope with questions raised about whether or not he meets Senate residency standards.

With most of the issues involving recently appointed Conservative senators one has to wonder about the vetting/decision-making process and what was explained to them when they were first approached about the position.  Just how well were the residency requirements and expectations explained?

One thing is sure though, by the time this is over, residency requirements for future senate appointments will be crystal clear.

With everyone demanding Senate reform (yes ten-year limits would be nice), we shouldn’t forget that there are some things the Senate gets right. For instance taking attendance and docking a senator’s pay if they are absent too many business days. That requirement is long overdue on the House side.

How many voters realize that no one other than the party whips knows how many days an MP has been in the House? With many votes going unrecorded, taxpayers don’t even know if they showed up to vote!

Yes, I am aware that an MP can be very busy and be working in his/her riding etc. But why shouldn’t the folks who pay their salaries (IE. taxpayers) know if they were at work and how many times they were away? It is hard to believe that in this day and age, MPs are still forbidden from even mentioning by name another MP who is away. Isn’t it time to reform that point too?

If we look at just the last couple of years, how many leadership candidates disappeared from the House of Commons to contest a leadership race? Essentially taxpayers subsidized them and paid their salary while they crossed the country (hopefully not using their MP travel points). The counter argument is that they are always available to deal with constituency issues, but really, how likely is that when they are totally focused on winning. We all know it is left to a couple of riding staff to handle issues.

Why shouldn’t leadership contenders lose pay if they are out campaigning and don’t show up to work? Does anyone know how many days Justin Trudeau or Marc Garneau have been in the House since the Liberal leadership race started? Why shouldn’t we know, we are paying their salaries. Why shouldn’t they be forced to take a leave-of-absence and let the Speaker’s Office administer their offices in a manner similar to when an MP leaves between elections? Why shouldn’t future Conservative and Green Party leadership candidates be forced to do the same thing?

There are clerks in the chamber and working with committees, is it so hard to take attendance?  Would it be so difficult to have a simple web site that keeps track of a Member of Parliament’s attendance, one that the public or media can check?

So, over to the Speaker and the party leaders, do you support the taking of attendance for MPs and publically disclosing the results? Are we letting MPs have a free ride? What do my readers think? Is it a good or bad idea?

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

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