Monday Morning Commentary is coming at the back end of the day because of a couple of things that I really wanted to do. Early this morning I finally got to go out with an old hunting buddy of mine and shoot some geese. We were only out until noon, had some pretty good luck, bagged a dozen snows and a half a dozen mallards and just enjoyed a wonderful late October morning in Saskatchewan. Sometimes you just need to step back and enjoy life and certainly hunting in Saskatchewan has always been something that I’ve enjoyed. I know many today don’t understand the hunting thing but it will always be apart of my life.
The other thing that I wanted to do was catch Mike Duffy’s remarks in the Senate of Canada before writing this commentary. Like many Canadians, I have been doing something for the last week that is an almost forgotten part of our history and that is listening to political debate on the radio. I remember listening as a young adult to debates from the House of Commons, Saskatchewan Legislature and even City Council in Moose Jaw on the radio. In some ways, I think it was a better forum for political debate before the tv cameras showed up and all of the play-acting started.
The Senate of Canada has never allowed the cameras in for a whole host of reasons and I don’t suppose there has been much in the way of debate in there lately that most Canadians would be terribly interested in anyways. Most of the Senate’s good work is done in committee and certainly their travelling committees across Canada have focused on some very important issues that have affected a lot of Canadian citizens. The current debate in the Senate on the motion sponsored by the Conservative government to suspend three Senators without pay and privilege has certainly grabbed the attention of Parliament, of the media and Canadians who give a damn about how their money is spent.
Last week I listened to Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau – the three affected Senators – Senator Marjory LeBreton (former leader of the Conservatives in the Senate) and a few other Senators like Hugh Segal. The debate has centred on whether this motion to suspend is in the interests of our parliamentary procedures and traditions and whether we can affectively take away a Senators’ privileges and pay without an investigation being completed for criminal wrongdoing.
It appeared as of Friday that the Conservative majority was simply going to pass the motion no matter what was said in the debate. Senator Duffy had promised in his remarks last week that he would have more to say and more revelations about the role of the Prime Minister’s office and the Conservative Party of Canada in the payments that he was supposed to have received from the Prime Minister’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright.
Well today Senator Duffy did not disappoint. On the heels of Senator Brazeau’s revelations last Friday that he was offered a backroom deal if he would apologize to the Senate for his misdeeds – he would be somewhat forgiven. Senator Duffy revealed today that he not only received one payment but also a second one which came from the legal counsel to the Conservative Party – Mr. Hamilton – to pay his legal bills. This money evidentially came from the Conservative Party of Canada.
Mr. Duffy also left the question hanging as to where the $90,000 Mr. Wright supposedly took out of his own pocket came from. Did the Conservative Party of Canada – i.e. the members – also provide those funds? Mr. Duffy’s speech, I am sure, had the Senate chamber reeling and no one would be taking a nap today.
I raise these issues not because I have any sympathy for any Senator, any MP or any MLA who thinks that because they are elected or appointed, that they have a right to anything except the opportunity to serve the public. The sense of entitlement that people seem to get upon election or appointment has always been a curse of our political system. But I do raise this issue today because I believe that as Mr. Harper has revealed in the House of Commons that there were at least 13 people in the PMO who where aware of these goings-on and those individuals need to be held to account. We all know that the Prime Minister’s Office – the PMO – has become all powerful in our political system to the detriment of individual elected members of parliament. This practice has been growing under both Liberal and Conservative governments and in my view, is totally detrimental to our political system.
These Senators should not be dealt with separately until the issues involving the Prime Minister’s Office are also dealt with. There should be a RCMP investigation of the whole lot of them and then the individual members of Parliament and the individual members of the Senate should be called upon to deal with the issues and not be afraid of the Prime Minister or his minions. These people should not have the ability to punish people for doing the right thing. This is not a Conservative issue – this is an issue of democracy and its time that individual Canadians got their power back through their elected representatives operating in an environment free of political fear.
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.