For this week`s MP report I am going to add some inside
perspective on a few recent events that have occurred in Ottawa over the past few weeks. As many of you may have heard, recently the Leader of the Federal Liberal Party made an announcement that effective immediately, all Liberal Senators would be booted from the Liberal caucus in an effort to try and ensure that the Liberal Senators would become more independent.
Many in the media reacted swiftly calling the idea “bold” while debate remained on what, if any, difference might occur. What is interesting about this idea is that it was actually the NDP who back in late October of 2013 introduced a motion in the House of Commons calling for “the introduction of immediate measures to end Senators' partisan activities, including participation in Caucus meetings”– what is more interesting is that when the NDP first introduced this idea the media did not characterize it as being “bold”– most in fact ignored the NDP motion. What is also notable is that at the time the leader of the Liberals actually voted against the motion, accusing the NDP of political haymaking over the Senate. Privately many NDP MP’s I know are expressing disappointment and frustration that a NDP idea is treated differently in the media when it is adopted by another party.
The larger question is will expelled from caucus Senators become more independent? In the case of the Liberal Senators what was seldom reported was that within hours of being booted out of the Liberal caucus, the Liberal Senators met as a group and quickly re-elected the same Liberal Senate
leader, the same Deputy Leader and most surprising even elected the same Senate party whip before declaring they were still a Liberal Senate caucus. The fact that a group of supposedly independent Senators would vote in a whip and continue to sit as a Liberal Senate caucus ensures that the extra pay and perks of a caucus (that are not available to truly independent Senators) would still flow and be paid for by taxpayers. In other words, nothing really changed as a result of this announcement. The inside joke in Ottawa is formerly Liberal senators have now become Senators who are Liberals. Ultimately the only real means of reforming that Senate remains before the Supreme Court, which is expected to issue formal legal guidelines on how the Senate can be reformed or abolished at some point within this year.
While on the topic of Senators many citizens have contacted me recently to express support for Private Members Bill C-518 from my Conservative colleague MP John Williamson. The Canadian Taxpayer’s federation has also engaged in a campaign calling for public support of this bill. What does Bill C-518 propose? I have already spoken in favor of Bill C-518 moving forward in debate to review stage and my comments on this Bill from Hansard were as follows:
“We know Canadians expect that if parliamentarians are convicted of egregious crimes, they should face consequences. No different from everyday Canadians would expect to face consequences if convicted of an egregious crime, yet we also know that this is currently not the case. I would
like to commend the member for New Brunswick Southwest for his work to attempt to remedy this. Currently, if a senator or member of Parliament retires or resigns prior to being convicted, or otherwise manoeuvres to avoid being expelled or disqualified from Parliament, that individual is still entitled to
his or her full pension, including the employer's share, which is funded by taxpayers. In other words, if one retires or resigns before being convicted of a crime, one still benefits from a generous pension plan. This is, in itself, an outrage to many taxpayers. “– MP Albas excerpt from Hansard
I will continue to provide updates on Bill C-518 as it progresses through debate as there has been a strong level of interest in this bill. Also occurring this week is the introduction of the budget that is
happening on Tuesday, February 11th and will be the topic of next week’s report. If you have any questions or concerns on Bills before Parliament please do not hesitate to contact me directly. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.
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Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola.