Duffy expense scandal shows need for senate reform: Davidson

duffySarnia-Lambton MP Pat Davidson says the ongoing scandal about expenses shows the need for Senate reform.

Over the course of a month details about Senator Mike Duffy’s expense claims have trickled out. A senate committee found Duffy erroneously claimed $90,000 in expenses. The amount was repaid and at the time Duffy took credit for it.

Recently it was learned the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Nigel Wright gave Duffy the money. There has been speculation as part of the deal was that the senate committee which reviews expenses removed some of the harsh wording from the report on Duffy’s expenses.

The affair has dominated news headlines across the country and prompted the Senate to ask the RCMP to look over the file.

Davidson says its generated “considerable” interest in Sarnia-Lambton also with about 100 people calling or writing her office to voice their anger.  To put it into context Davidson says she’s also received about 600 calls and emails about a private members bill which will force the CBC to reveal the salaries of its top on-air personalities.

Davidson says most of the callers want to see more accountability in the senate. “If there are public funds that are inappropriately spent, they have to be repaid,” says Davidson. “It’s that simple.”

The scandal has also renewed calls for senate reform or even abolishing it completely. Davidson says the federal government is still waiting to hear from the Supreme Court of Canada what exactly the federal government is able to do to reform the senate.

“Even though we have put forth the Senate Reform Act, we do need to wait to see what the Supreme Court says; if we can’t abolish it or…if we can’t do it at all.

MP Pat Davidson

MP Pat Davidson

“I really do think something needs to be done… I think that we do need to look at some type of reform…term limitations …fixed terms (of office) or renewable terms. We also need to look at election (of senators).That is a complex issue unto itself because there are all sorts of things that need to cooperation with the provinces.”

And while members of the opposition and reporters are still asking pointed questions about the Duffy affair, Davidson says some significant change has already occurred as senators will now have to follow the same rules for filing expense claims as MPs. “The new rules that the senate has adopted are pretty stringent…They were on more of an honour system and that has come to an end.

“There is a lot of good work that happens (in the senate) but there has to be justification of the costs and the dollars and how they are being spent.”

– Heather Wright