Thanks Mr. Runciman for a job well done!

There is so much one could say about Bob Runciman and all of it would be positive, no matter what your political affiliation.

He would not know me but I watched him for four years during the first Mike Harris mandate from 1995 to 1999 — when I was an EA and Chief of Staff for one of his MPP colleagues. I specifically remember, for example, sitting in the Ontario’s visitors section in the Legislature when he offered to resign his Cabinet Post because there had been an error in a Throne Speech attributed to his staff.

While I have not been able to find that incident on the Internet, it showed how ethical he was and what most of us would think of as a “statesman” — something we rarely see in today’s provincial or federal parliament.

Here is Runciman’s Wikipedia page. It says he was first elected as an MPP in the Ontario Parliament in 1981, representing Leeds in Eastern Ontario. He was briefly on the Frank Miller Cabinet prior to the defeat of the Miller Government as a result of the Bob Rae David Peterson compact.

Then, in June 1995, when the Harris ONPCs were elected with a huge majority, he was initially appointed Solicitor General and Minister of Correctional Services — where it was reported he did an outstanding job. Runciman held other Ontario Government posts as well but that is the one I remember best.

Seven years ago, on January 29, 2010, when former PM Stephen Harper appointed Runciman as a Senator, many remembered his excellent record in provincial government and cheered that appointment. We hoped, of course, that his appointment and many others like his, would result in an elected Senate — which of course we now know will never become a reality given the way the Trudeau Liberals are running the show.

The crux of the matter is that Bob Runciman is a statesman of high regard and I wish him well in retirement.

Why were Duffy, Wallin & Brazeau only Senators suspended?

JPEG Pro

JPEG Pro

Like so many Canadians, I am fed up with the entitlement attitude and the lack of rules in the Senate regarding travel and residency expenses. And, those lack of rules became apparent on April 21, 2016, when Justice Charles Vaillancourt found Senator Mike Duffy, not only “not guilty,” but “innocent” of 31 charges of defrauding the Senate  — all related to expenses flagged by Auditor General Michael Ferguson in his June 2012 report.

Also related to Duffy’s acquittal, as of this week (May 23, 2016), the Crown has opted not to appeal the Duffy case and not to proceed against Senator Mac Harb. Similarly, the RCMP announced on their website that they have closed the Senate investigation regarding Senator Pamela Wallin. The case against Senator Patrick Brazeau, however, continues as of today’s date.

Let’s review what happened after Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau were suspended in November 2013. According to this Wikipedia page, following a full study of Senator expenses in the winter and spring of 2015, AG Ferguson identified 30 senators whose claims he thought were inappropriate. Of those 30, he recommended 9 cases be referred to the RCMP, and 14 be allowed to opt for binding arbitration by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie.

Reality check. If you follow the chronology, there were two very different processes! Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau were judged by their fellow Senators and suspended two years earlier for the exact same type of questionable expenses that others, over the 2015/16 period, have quietly repaid or accepted binding arbitration.

The worst of it, however, is that, in spite of the inconsistent treatment of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau, compared to the other Senators who were also found to have questionable expenses, the judging has not stopped.

As I wrote last week, for example, Senator Leo Housakos, Chair of the Senate Internal Economy Committee, wants to re-examine Duffy’s expenses dossier.

Now, fast forward to yesterday. CTV’s Steve Murphy sent out a tweet at 12:41pm: “Does public believe justice has been done in Duffy, Harb, Wallin cases? NS Senator Jim Cowan acknowledges probably not.”

Probably justice was not done? What on Earth can Senator Cowan mean considering that, as this CBC column states, he had to pay back $10,000 in disputed amounts himself.

Talk about hypocrisy!

At this point, the issue is not what is a legitimate Senate expense. The court already proved that it is the Senate’s unclear rules that is the problem. But, rather than admit the problem is within the Senate administration itself, Senators Housakos and Cowan seem to be alleging that it is only in the cases of Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau that justice has not been done.

Is that simply because they don’t want to pay back the salary and benefits that those three have lost? If it is, I have no doubt the Senate’s fall session of 2016 is going to get very noisy and controversial.

The crux of the matter is this: No matter what past mistakes were made, all Senators should be treated equally. In 2013 three Senators were suspended without pay and pension benefits. In 2015, 14 Senators were allowed to go to arbitration without penalty. That clearly means that three Senators — Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau — were treated unfairly.

So, to put it bluntly, rather than continue to harass the suspended three, I would recommend Senators Housakos and Cowan put all their energies into making things equal and right.

And, I would also add, that making things right includes making all the Senate rules regarding travel and residency tougher and with accountability mechanisms built in. (Updated May 26th at 10:22am)

Elected Senator Doug Black’s 7-point plan for Senate reform

It is interesting, that according to comments made by elected Senator Doug Black (at the Reform Foundation Symposium in Calgary last week), it might actually be possible to reform the Senate. (H/T MP Pierre Poilievre’s website and fh at Blue Like You.)

In fact, Black seems so sure Senate reform is possible, he outlined a 7-point plan to make it happen. Which is good news worth repeating given the media and opposition meltdown regarding the allegations and noise coming out of that venerable Chamber in recent months.

  1. Improve Accountability by Tightening Residency Requirements: What does primary residency actually mean? While you can’t live in two places at once (unless you are fortunate enough to be an Ontario Senator), should Senators be physically present in the province they represent most of the time they are not sitting in Ottawa? As Black says, “You can’t represent your region if you don’t know it and you can’t know it if you don’t live there.” Without a doubt, if this issue had been clearer, neither Mike Duffy or Patrick Brazeau would have had to be suspended yesterday.

  2. Include external members on Audit Sub-Committee: As is done at the UK’s House of Lords, qualified Canadians who are not Senators or elected MPs should be added to the Senate Audit Committee to ensure that the rules make sense. The reason that seems like a good idea is that Senators may not want to question a colleague but an outsider, on behalf of taxpayers, would have no qualms in doing so.

  3. No Senator convicted of a crime contributes to or receives a Pension: It seems self-evident that no Senator should be able to benefit from a public pension if convicted of a crime. Yet, it appears that is not the case at the moment with former Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne. Recently, former Liberal appointee Mac Harb, while still under an RCMP investigation, resigned so that he could receive his pension, no matter what the outcome of the investigation. That is not right.

  4. Full transparency in defining general Senate business expenses:  As Black says, the expense rules can’t be so restrictive that Senators cannot travel throughout Canada meeting Canadians. But, I believe such restrictions would have helped Pamela Wallin, who was also suspended yesterday. From what she said on her own behalf when she was interviewed by the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, she had the impression that she was a Senator 24/7, therefore, could claim most expenses. If that is not the case, defining what are legitimate general expenses is important.

  5. Full transparency in defining Travel and Hospitality expenses: This point relates to # 4. Again, using Wallin as an example, I heard her explain in her CBC interview, that flying home to Saskatchewan might be via Halifax where she had been invited to speak. So, she’d fly from Ottawa to Halifax, stay over, then from fly from Halifax to Toronto and then onto to Regina. In a round about situation like that, the Senate needs to be clear on what part of a trip like that is she a Senator and what part is she not.

  6. Provide full accessibility in the Chamber with live video: Black’s point of view about accessibility has merit. The House of Commons is televised, why not the Senate? At the very least, why not webcasting? As it is, only those who live in Ottawa have access to watching Senate proceedings. Allowing all Canadians to look in would be helpful in terms of seeing the work they do as important.

  7. Initiate a 2-way dialogue with Canadians: Black is not clear about what he means by 2-way dialogue. But, it is feasible that Senators could go out into schools and community charitable or non-profit organizations to give talks on what they do, such as the Rotary Club. The Senate could also hold open consultations on certain legislation pending passage.

Speaking of a 2-way dialogue, what I would like to know is why these seven points, which reflect good old common sense,  are not Senate procedure now? In my opinion, while most Conservatives agreed that the three Senators should be punished, I am not one of them. While I certainly don’t condone what the suspended Senators allegedly did, and last week might have agreed with suspensions out of anger in a comment or Tweet, if, as we know now, the rules were as unclear as Black seems to suggest, they were treated unfairly — scapegoated as it were. Leaving me to wonder — who’s next?

Anyway, to comment on this 7-point plan readers can leave a comment here or contact Senator Black directly at doug.black@sen.parl.gc.ca.  And, for those who are interested, here are the Senator’s remarks in PDF format.

Wikipedia revised & why Senate Scandal NOT Sponsorship Redux!

People who should know better are comparing this latest Senate debacle with the former Liberal Sponsorship Scandal. Wishful thinking? Desperation to make the Conservatives as bad the former Liberals? I don’t know for sure but that is how it seems.

For example, Chantel Hebert, usually one of my favourite journalists, wrote a column this week on how Nigel Wright could destroy Prime Minister Harper. She made a few good points until she mentioned how this scandal is similar to the Liberal Sponsorship Scandal.

In fact, she somehow made this current “scandal” sound worse because [former Prime Minister] “Martin was not in charge when the sponsorship program went off the rails and he had not hired those who ran it.”

Also this week, we had Liberal pollster Frank Graves writing a short post at the iPolitics blog. In fact, Graves actually referred to the Senate matter as Adscam Redux.

Which means, other media will now pick up on this and repeat it ad nauseam with the view that if you tell an exaggeration often enough, people will start to believe it.

Well, we have to put a stop to this innuendo now because they couldn’t be more wrong. The Sponsorship scandal involved missing millions spent on advertising contracts for little or no work. The Sponsorship Scandal or Adscam also involved cash passed in brown envelopes to Quebec Liberal Party operatives — cash that belonged to the Canadian people.

In other words, no matter how the national media or pollsters spin things, as I wrote yesterday, there was no public money involved in this Senate debacle other than alleged expense account over payments — and those are and were the responsibility of the individual Senators involved. The bottom line is that Prime Minister Harper demanded that the alleged overpayments be paid back, or arrangements made to pay them back — with private money,

However, this lazy comparison clearly shows how desperate the federal Liberals and their supporters are. How desperate? Well, it seems quite a bit given both the Wikipedia entries for the Sponsorship Scandal and the Gomery Commission have been edited and revised. Plus, the Wikipedia entry that used to be on Adscam has disappeared altogether. Specifically, where there used to be information about the misused and stolen $40 or $43,000 million, now the entries show only a couple of million dollars missing or in dispute.

So, I am left with two questions:

  1. Who, I wonder, is attempting to rewrite history by changing the Wikipedia entries on the Sponsorship Scandal?
  2. Is there anyone who can access the Wikipedia sites to re-include the incomplete and missing information?

C/P Jack’s Newswatch.

Reminder that Ottawa’s Senate suspensions are NOT expulsions!

For all those in the Canadian media and opposition who are wailing about how unfair and mean-spirited the Senate suspension motion pertaining to Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau is, keep in mind that said suspension is only for a two-year period.

Also keep in mind that if the Senate suspension motion passes, the three will be able to keep calling themselves Senators. Why? Because are NOT being expelled.

Let’s briefly review:

  1. Each of the three Senators involved expensed incorrectly — by huge amounts.
  2. Two of the three Senators have paid back their overpayments.
  3. One Senator has not paid back what he allegedly owes and is having his remuneration clawed back instead.
  4. One Senator paid her expenses out of her own resources.
  5. And, yes, one Senator paid his over-expensed debt back with a donation from someone working in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

So, what is this whole “scandal” about? Is it about when the Prime Minister learned about the $90,000 “personal” cheque? In my opinion, no, it isn’t.

Rather, it’s about an attitude of entitlement that seems to infect everyone, or almost everyone, who is ever appointed to the Senate or any government agency.

It is also about a mainstream media that over-reacts about almost everything connected to Prime Minister Harper or his Conservative government.

I mean, compare the media coverage of this so-called Senate scandal (when most of the public money allegedly misspent was repaid) with the Ontario Liberal government wasting one billion dollars of taxpayer’s money on e-Health, one billion dollars on Ornge and, more recently, one billion dollars on the cancellation of two gas plants — which was for an openly partisan political purpose.

Right, the reaction was a yawn. Time to move on folks!

Anyway, regarding the federal matter, the crux of the matter is that the three Senators affected by the motion to suspend them for two years need to accept responsibility for their role in this debacle, as well as some consequences.

Update 6pm 18/10/13:

As I just wrote on my post at Jack’s Newswatch, now we see what the media are really all about. Even when there is negative news about former Liberal MP and Mayor Fontana in London, the parliamentary media (particularly CBC) would rather be all atizzy over Senator Mike Duffy’s comments. The $13,500 cheque for legal fees paid by the CPC may tick off party members but there is nothing illegal about it. It is not a smoking gun to anything. Moreover, the CPC lawyer who made the payment can’t comment because it is private and client privileged information. Duffy had to know that. As far as the RBC allegations, they are more serious. However, I’d take the PM’s word over Duffy any day. As one Twitter writer wrote, paraphrased, Duffy tells us all now to disregard what he said before because now everything he is saying is true. Sure.

As far as I am concerned, they should, at the very least, suspend Duffy.

Latest allegation against Sentor Mike Duffy absolutely stunning!

Courtesy Microsoft Clip Art

Courtesy Microsoft Clip Art

Whether he wants to or not, Senator Mike Duffy is likely going to go down in the history of the Canadian Senate as the guy who broke the camels back. I mean, who in their right mind could defend reforming the Red Chamber now? It needs to be abolished!

Pigs at the trough, if not all of them, most of them, regardless of their political affiliation or which prime minister appointed them.

In reality, it is our Governor General who appoints Senators, on the advice of the Prime Minister. However, the prime minister is not their boss! In fact, according to this Wikipedia description, Senators are above MPs in the House of Commons in order of precedence — which is actually a scary thought given they are not elected.

Anyway, I have no intention of making excuses for Senator Mike Duffy if the latest allegations against him turn out to be all true or even only partially true.

So, what is the latest RCMP allegation?

According to this Globe and Mail piece, the allegation against Duffy is that he paid a “consultant” approximately $64,000 out of his Senate budget over a four-year period of time for speech writing and web development services — services that the alleged consultant is saying he only did in part for income he is denying having received.

Anyway, who or what to believe. “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. (Link)”

But, make no mistake about it, if this allegation is found to be true, Duffy is going to be spending a considerable amount of time in jail. And, frankly, if the allegations are true, he will deserve to be there.

Why do I say that? Because what is good for the goose (Liberals) is good for the gander (Conservatives).

Take a look at what happened to ex-Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne and why it happened:

“[Judge Robert] Smith found [Raymond] Lavigne guilty of defrauding the federal government of $10,120.50 related to false and inflated mileage claims for car trips between Ottawa and Montreal. In some cases, reimbursement claims were made when his assistant drove his own car and Lavigne wasn’t a passenger.

Now, look at what happened recently when Lavigne tried to get early parole. Not only was that denied but his behaviour was referred to by the Parole Board as criminal.

Let me repeat. Lavigne is serving six months in jail and six months on probation for misusing a little over $10,000! Wrong, yes, but pretty small change when compared to what we are hearing out of Ottawa and all the huge Senate expense repayments.

Entitlement gone amuck!

[…]

Updates Wednesday, October 9th:

(1) It occurred to me that some readers might think I am criticizing Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative caucus in this post. I am not. See my latest post.

(2)  What has also occurred to me is that the consultant in question could simply have been on retainer. $64,000 over four years would work out to about $16,000 a year which is average for a contract for that kind of status — be available if I need you kind of thing. In fact, I have had those kinds of contracts. Usually, however, I do plenty of work but being on retainer is not unusual, particularly for lawyers, for IT professionals and/or communications consultants. Was that the case? Only time will tell but having someone on retainer would not represent illegal activity.