Mulcair has 'no lessons' to give on integrity, Senate speaker says
Karolyn Coorsh, CTVNews.ca
Published Sunday, June 28, 2015 10:04AM EDT
Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair has “no lessons” to give the Red Chamber on the topic of integrity after the NDP “misused and abused” taxpayer funds, says the Senate’s speaker.
Leo Housakos says the ongoing controversy is proof that the House of Commons should face the “same kind of scrutiny” placed on senators in recent years.
And that includes an investigation into the alleged improper use of parliamentary resources for partisan purposes, such as the salaries of workers in the party’s satellite offices. The Board of Internal Economy – which governs the financial policies of the Commons – has ordered the NDP and 68 of its members to repay $2.7 million in budget expenses, but the party has launched a court challenge on the ruling.
Housakos said while the Senate has “independent arms’ length arbitrators” examining such matters, there is no such oversight for the House.
“On that side, the NDP sat in an internal economy committee trying to cast judgment over their own improprieties,” Housakos said in an interview that aired on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.
“(Mulcair) has no lessons to give us about integrity,” the Conservative senator added. “If he’s ready, he should call the auditor general to review (the) $2.7 million of abuse of taxpayers’ funds.”
Housakos said the Upper Chamber heard the auditor general “loud and clear” when he said that senators needed independent oversight mechanisms.
“And we shouldn’t have members of the House of Commons overlooking and sitting as judges over their own issues,” Housakos said.
The reform of Canada’s scandal-plagued Senate will likely dominate the upcoming election campaign, expected to be held in the fall.
Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau have been suspended without pay over expense-related allegations. And a recently published audit by Auditor General Michael Ferguson found problematic expenses by 30 sitting and former senators. Paperwork from nine of the 30 has been referred to the RCMP for a criminal review.
Mulcair is calling for the Senate to be abolished, saying the body is unelected and can’t be reformed.
But Housakos defended the institution, saying he and his colleagues have taken the necessary steps toward accountability and transparency.
He also said healthy democracies have an oversight body such as a Senate.
“You need two chambers in order to have rigorous and thorough debate on issues,” he said. “Do we need to evolve? Do we need to change? Do we need to make ourselves better? Absolutely.”
Housakos said in the coming months, the Senate is “coming back with interesting and progressive ideas” about how the institution “can better serve” the country.
Housakos said his objective over the next few months is to reach out to Canadians, as well as provincial legislatures.
“We want to make sure they can use the Senate as a springboard for ideas that are important to them.”