Senate adopts 11 changes to tighten expense claim rules: Sen. LeBreton
Published Wednesday, May 29, 2013 8:21AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 29, 2013 10:18AM EDT
The Senate must change or "it may not survive," said Sen. Marjory LeBreton, one day after the Red Chamber adopted new rules on Senate travel and expenses.
She told CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday that the recent revelations around several senators' expenses have fueled the push for tighter rules and greater accountability and transparency within the Senate.
"The fact is we promised accountability and goodness knows we have tried to reform the Senate, have had legislation before both houses, and what I'm simply saying is if this institution doesn't properly go along with Senate reform, it may not survive," LeBreton said.
Late Tuesday, she issued a statement that 11 new rules had been adopted by the Senate, largely pertaining to travel and other Senate business expenses.
Here are some of the key changes:
- Remove the principal from the Senate Administrative Rules that states a Senator is presumed to act honourably with respect to expenses.
- Clarify and make consistent terminology surrounding residency for the purposes of expense claims.
- Require a Senator to provide a specific purpose for travel when claiming expenses.
- Require Senators to maintain mileage logs for the purpose of claiming mileage.
- Require Administration to provide Internal Economy with monthly reports on travel patterns.
Read the full list of changes here
When asked why it took a scandal for the Senate to tighten the rules, LeBreton said the Conservatives began making changes two years ago when they achieved a majority in the Senate -- but prior to that all efforts at reform were blocked by the Liberals.
One of the changes the Conservatives brought in since achieving a majority, she said, is the requirement that senators report their expenses on a quarterly basis -- which is what brought the recent issues to the media's attention.
"Otherwise, if it had been in the past, no one would have ever been the wiser," LeBreton said.
She added that she understands why many Canadians are upset to learn that some Senators may have been abusing the system in recent years.
"I'm a taxpayer too. I've worked hard all my life and I'm absolutely distressed about this. The fact is most senators do conduct themselves properly but having said that, this process of accountability we started has exposed some very serious problems," LeBreton said.
Senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb have been under scrutiny in recent months over questionable housing expense claims.
In her statement Tuesday, LeBreton said the government is committed to reforming the Senate and plans additional changes to bring in elections and term limits, along with spending oversight.
"Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change, or like the old Upper Houses of our provinces, vanish.”