Ottawa Ontario — MP Guy Lauzon writes: What’s going on in the Senate? I have had this question asked by angry constituents through emails, phone calls and letters over the last number of days. These constituents feel taken advantage of by the very people who are supposed to be looking out for their interests. They want to know what’s going on; why aren’t these folks being fired; why are they able to stay in their positions with pay? I have worked with several Senators in my time in Ottawa and I have found them to be very professional and I value their contributions. But, let me be clear – if someone misappropriates funds, these funds should be repaid. If someone breaks the law, that person deserves to bear the full brunt of the law. Period.
First, in Canada we believe in the presumption of innocence. Second, we also believe in due process so that those who are accused have the right to defend themselves in front of an inquiry or court of law. Right now, that is what is happening. The RCMP is conducting a review into examinations found by an auditing firm respecting Senator Duffy, while, Senator Harb and Brazeau are under review by Deloitte. The matter has also been referred to two independent bodies for review – the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, as well as, the Senate Ethics Officer.
Should any of these investigations lead to charges and convictions, there are procedures in place for removing a Senator from office. If a Senator is convicted of an indictable offence, he or she is immediately suspended. Under s. 31 of the Constitution, the Senate, as a whole, can then decide whether to declare that Senator’s seat to be “vacant” effectively removing the Senator from office. If the Senator is sentenced to more than two years in jail, he or she is automatically disqualified from holding a Senate seat under s. 31 of the Constitution. By tradition, should a Senator be convicted of an offence, they are more likely to voluntarily resign then wait for the Senate to remove them from office.
Canadians understand that our Senate, as it stands today, must either change, or like the old Upper Houses of our provinces, vanish. In the meantime, we will fix the Senate’s rules governing travel and expenses. Last Tuesday, Minister LeBreton highlighted the tough new rules governing Senate travel and expenses proposed by Conservative Senators and called on the Opposition to pass them. These new rules were introduced despite objections from Liberal senators who want to protect the current rules. Whatever it takes, we will get these tough new accountability measures passed, to better protect the taxpayer. We are calling on the Opposition to join us to improve the accountability of the Senate by passing them before the summer.
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