The Canadian justice system is moving gradually but surely. Two senators – suspended Senator Patrick Brazeau and retired Senator Marc Harb – were formally charged by the RCMP with fraud and breach of trust in dealing with senate expense claims.
According to the Mounties, Brazeau and Harb defrauded taxpayers by claiming travel and living expenses to which they were not entitled.
Brazeau is one of the famous trio suspended from the Senate in October along with onetime fellow Conservative Senators Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin. They were suspended without pay following an outside audit of their expenses.
Although the whole episode of the Senate scandals has left a bitter taste in Canadians’ mouth. it has brought the issue of Senate reform to the forefront. Average Canadians have expressed their views on Senate reform in thousands all over the country.
The NDP’s Charlie Angus said the criminal charges ushered in a “sobering day” in Canadian political life. “It raises many questions though about the Senate and the fact that we have an unelected, unaccountable body with people being charged with criminal offences.”
While praising the RCMP for laying charges in the expenses affair, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: “We expect all parliamentarians to respect the rules and respect the law, and if not there will be consequences.
“This is what we would expect, the RCMP has the full authority to conduct these investigations and to hold anybody who does not respect the rules or the law responsible, that is what is being done … and of course they will get full co-operation form the government.”
While we were all digesting the Senate scandal, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau threw a bombshell by kicking out 32 senators from the Liberal caucus. “There are no more Liberal senators; the only way to be a part of the Liberal caucus is to be put there by the people of Canada,” he declared. Trudeau emphasized that the 32 Liberal senators “are no longer members of this caucus, and as such, are independent Senators.”
Whether one agrees with Trudeau’s action or not, one thing is for sure that the decision is a step further to senate reform. The Liberal senators were appointed to the Red Chamber by the generosity of the Liberal PM in power, drawing hefty salaries and allowances for what appears to the average Canadian for doing nothing.
Most of the time, the senators are failed candidates who lost federal or provincial elections or party faithfuls appointed to the senate in gratitude of the party in power. I agree with Trudeau when he said that the only way one could be appointed to the Canadian Parliament is by the people of Canada, meaning during an election.
One should think of the tremendous saving that the Treasury would have if the senate was abolished. I know the Canadian Parliament is designed and copied on the British parliamentary system, which has the two Houses – the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The latter is comparable to our Senate.
I doubt if anyone in Britain is going to blame us if we go ahead and abolish the senate, a colonial relic of British imperialism. We can still remain a member of the Commonwealth and yet show our individual identity by being different.
The issue of senate reform has been discussed to death and it’s about time something concrete was done. Do we have to wait for some drastic changes to take place or until Trudeau becomes the prime minister? I hope not.