Mr. Prime Minister,
I’m sure I do not need to inform you of the shared sentiment many Canadians hold regarding the inappropriate expenses of some members of the Senate of Canada, but I would like to outline the concerns of ordinary Canadians, like myself, have about this gross misconduct by political figures we hold to a higher moral standard.
Before I begin, I would like to emphasize that this letter is not meant to be a partisan attack on you or your government. I openly admit that, as of 2012, I have been a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party of Canada. That being said, my allegiance to political party is superceded by my status as a citizen of Canada, and despite our differing political visions, wish to underline that I have always afforded you the respect befitting of any Canadian Prime Minister. It is my hope that you will find this letter to offer something constructive as your government enters a new session of Parliament in the fall.
Firstly, I would like to congratulate you on making the right decision with respect to the ejecting of senators Brazeau, Duffy and Wallin from the Conservative caucus. While I maintain that every citizen, political figures included, has the right to a presumption of innocence, there exists an overwhelming amount of evidence of impropriety. This impropriety, whether it be in the form of residency requirements for membership to the Canadian Senate or the claiming of inappropriate or ineligible expenses, has irreparably damaged the relationship between the Senate and the Canadians they represent. Coming on the heels of the Charbonneau Inquiry, which has damaged the image of political leaders in the province of Quebec, the questionable expenses of Canadian Senators only serves to further damage the reputation of Canadian political figures.
I’m sure we can both agree that the number of twists this story has taken are too numerous to outline in this letter, but that Canadians are concerned with the issue of expenses as well as residency.
On residency, Canadians are hard-pressed to believe that people as intelligent as Senators Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy, both former broadcast journalists, had difficulty understanding the meaning of “primary residence” on legal documents related to their work as Canadian senators. Surely, the reports of Sen. Duffy only getting is health card from the province of Prince Edward Island, the province he represents in the Senate, in December, 2012 is an indication that he was ineligible for appointment to the Senate as a member of the PEI delegation.
In Sen. Wallin’s case, it is a well-known fact amongst people in her home province that she does not live in Saskatchewan, the province she represents in the Senate. Her appointment should also be declared void based on residency, given that she had listed her primary residence in the province of Ontario on forms relevant to some of her other work on corporate boards.
These appointments need to be explained to Canadians, and as head of the Canadian government, the people of Canada look to you for leadership. In my view, Sen. Duffy and Sen. Wallin are just as much ineligible for appointment to the Senate from the provinces they have been appointed to represent as I am in representing any province; I being unable at this current time to meet the minimum age requirement or the property requirement for appointment to the Senate.
The expenses are another issue altogether, but one that is equally, if not more, troubling. Your government was elected to lead on the issue of fiscal responsibility, and although I did not share in your party’s overall vision of the country, I was pleased to see your government take early steps to address transparency and accountability in the first years of your government. I am discouraged to witness the lack of leadership in response to Senate expenses from your government. An issue of this magnitude should be addressed by the Prime Minister of Canada in a straightforward manner so that the people of this country understand that you are aware of this issue, that you are responding to it and what you plan to do to address the declining faith Canadians have in both their elected and appointed officials.
I have read that Canadian senators make roughly $140,000 per annum, a sum that the vast majority of Canadians can only dream of making. It is bothersome that some senators have burdened taxpayers, claiming ineligible expenses of sums comparable to a senator’s annual salary. It is also deeply troubling that these senators can get bailed out with gifts from lobbyists and members of your office of sums up to $90,000.
Sir, I have student loan debts in excess of $20,000; I’ve gone back to post-secondary studies with the hopes of going to graduate school; I work full-time and pay taxes. Everything I own, I own because I worked for it. My bills continue to climb, my grocery bill seems to get higher month to month and I’ll likely never be able to save enough money to buy a decent home in British Columbia because of inflated housing prices. I mention this because I, and many other Canadians, have issues making ends meet, despite doing the right things. I don’t believe that life should ever be easy, but it shouldn’t be this difficult either. While your government is busy in damage control over these issues with certain senators, Canadians tend to feel as though the business of helping ordinary people is being overlooked. Some of these Senators have had it much too easy, despite being in a much better position than the majority of Canadians today.
I do not subscribe to a view that advocates the abolition of the Senate. I believe that there are many Senators who do great work. Senators like Sen. Larry Campbell from British Columbia on the poverty and homelessness file, Sen. Jacques Demers on literacy and Sen. Bob Runciman on the Canadian correctional system. I do believe the Senate needs to be reformed, and I look forward to the opinions from the Supreme Court of Canada on the reference case your government submitted last week.
Sir, the people of Canada are crying out for leadership on this issue and need to feel confident that their issues are being addressed by their elected officials. If I may make a recommendation, perhaps an address to the country; not a brief press conference but a real and insightful statement from you that addresses this issue in a straightforward manner.
Finally, I’d like to say that I am a proud Canadian. I have done about a dozen cross-country bus trips and have seen the landscape of this country transform from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains and everything in between. I am a staunch defender of Canadian values, innovation and accomplishment wherever I go. The concerns I’ve outlined above have shaken the very foundations of our democratic system, and Canadians are anxiously awaiting a demonstration of leadership on the concerns expressed. These issues will affect Canadians’ views of our democracy and, in some cases, may make them less likely to participate in the future.
I hope my letter finds you committed to conducting the business Canadians elected you to do without the distractions that these so-called ”scandals” have caused; but more importantly, I’m hoping this letter simply finds you.
Most humble regards,
Citizen from British Columbia