Canada’s New Age?

Canada’s New Age?

Senators, run-around

Last week the Canadian Senate voted to suspend Sens. Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, as they are under investigation for claiming wrongful expenses and/or abusing housing allowances.  This is only the second time in Canadian history that a Senator has been suspended, but this time it’s threefold.

Frankly, they got what they deserved.

And is it just me, or is one of the most annoying things about this whole scandal – apart from the alleged abuse of the public purse – a whiny Pamela Wallin.   Boo-hoo, I’m telling you they’re not treating me fairly.  I was confused by the paper work… you were a reporter once.  You and Mike Duffy; and you’re trying to get the sympathy of Canadians by crying ignorance?  News flash!  You two – of all people – should have known better.  A part of your previous lives was calling out the same type of nonsense you’re alleged to have pulled.

Whatever happened to suck it up and do the right thing?

Now that I live in the U.S., it’s not often I get asked about Canadian politics  – nobody asks me about Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford, but that’s because it’s already plastered (no pun intended…) around the world.  But this past spring I was surprisingly asked about the expenses scandal in the Canadian Senate.  It was something to the effect of, “What’s up with that Duffy guy?”  But even so, that passing question lent greater magnitude to the problem.  People outside of Canada were taking notice.

And since the scandal broke, I’m often asked, “Doesn’t Canada have a mechanism for getting rid of these jokers?  Don’t you have impeachment laws?” …and so on.  And I find myself continually saying that – according to some cursory glances – in theory we do, but Canada has never really had to deal with these issues before, at least not in this way.

And really, isn’t that at the heart of it?

The hard reality is that we Canadians need to face the fact that when it comes to punishing political abuse, these theoretical possibilities that exist can no longer remain theoretical.  We are coming to a point where, moving forward, we’re going to need these mechanisms in some known working order.

Pamela Wallin may say that this is a “sad day for democracy” because she’s been suspended; but, she really has no idea just how sad a day it is.

On the one hand, having clear rules and guidelines to manage political scandals just makes sense.  But on the other, it should be painfully sad that – as a nation – we’ve come to this: having to anticipate the worst in our politicians/people.

Perhaps it’s been a long time coming, but in my view, that’s a long-held Canadian ideal now shattered.

Erin Drushel

3 comments

  1. FrancesMC says:

    The biggest scandal is that the PM appointed these guys. Do you suppose that he really believed that Duffy and Wallin lived in the provinces they were supposed to represent? Not ***** likely. On the other hand, PM’s have been appointing party bagmen to the senate since forever so I guess he thought it wouldn’t matter to send 2 more.

  2. Treebeard says:

    As folks in Toronto struggle with the problem of a rogue mayor who won’t leave and can’t be forced out, your observation about the lack of an effective disciplinary mechanism rings uncomfortable true. The only consolation is that we live in a country where the routine sanctions of the law are commonly adequate to deal with the routine machinations of our routine malefactors. We’re blessed to not need special measures on any regular basis. But the law we have must be used.

    I cannot find the slightest sympathy for Messrs. Brazeau or Duffy. I find Ms. Wallin’s case more complex. Though her career path led her to reside in many different places about the continent, she did maintain property and connections with Saskatchewan. Her close family lives there and she travelled to see them as a dutiful daughter should – but also as one assigned to speak for Saskatchewan should. In her professional life she had long been expected by her employers to maintain a tastefully luxurious lifestyle. Since she was appointed to be a partisan star representative, I’d suspect she felt few qualms about carrying on that lifestyle, – not quite realizing that the rules for public servants were different from those for entitled private employees.

    Nevertheless, it can be claimed Wallin objected to the same problem you cite – she was never brought into a court of law in which the common rules, assumptions and procedures were operative. No formal charges were laid, no witnesses were cross-examined, no formal defence procedure was operative and no defence counsel allowed. She seems to have felt that she was charged, condemned and executed without the customary process of the courts being allowed.

    I do not deny that Wallin did something wrong, and do not automatically accept her claim of innocence through niavete. But I am hard put to deny her claim that the normal processes of our justice system were not followed in her case.

    And that, as you point out, is a flaw.

  3. Erin Drushel says:

    Ultimately, it will be up to the RCMP what happens, but whether you’re a little bit guilty or a lot guilty still makes one guilty. And until guilt is officially determined, she should not be treated differently than the others from the outset. Had the Senators been expelled outright prior to the end of the investigation, then I would be inclined to agree with the lack of due process however, that’s not the case; I find nothing wrong with suspension while the investigation is ongoing. Police departments routinely suspend officers who are under investigation even if they’ve not officially been charged. It’s just good form to suspend individuals while they are actively being investigated, it helps organizations to focus on the more important day to day workings rather than being completely distracted by the constant scandal.

    And as for her lifestyle, the very idea that she didn’t understand the lifestyle changes required of her, is far too charitable…there’s no excuse for a media personality not understanding the perceptions of political life. In my view that’s willful neglect with a dash of “the rules can’t possibly apply to me, too.”

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