I will repeat my title in part. Should Canadian taxpayers pay for what Senators refer to as their pet projects — what is also referred to as “community service?” In my opinion, ordinary taxpayers should not be paying for what is volunteer work for the rest of us.
Auditor General Michael Ferguson releases the long-awaited Senate audit report today. Yet, over the last few days, it has been leaking like a sieve.
One thing is for sure, this is not a partisan issue. Whether Liberal or Conservative appointed, at least 30 Senators have some major explaining to do. Twenty-one have relatively minor discrepancies while 9 (two sitting and 7 retired) are allegedly so serious, they have apparently already been referred to the RCMP.
For instance, Senator Nicole Eaton is one of the 21 and complained in this Huff Post column that if the Auditor General had his way, Senators like her wouldn’t be able to claim expenses related to “community service.”
Specifically, she has been flagged to repay $3,489.00 for air fare and expenses related to her attending meetings at not-for-profit organizations she supports in Toronto.
As this Wiki page indicates, Eaton can easily afford to pay for such expenses. To say otherwise reflects an entitlement attitude to say the least! I mean, why should Canadian taxpayers subsidize Eaton’s community service work when that is not why she is a Senator?
Of course, Eaton is not alone. We also know that Conservative Senate Leader Leo Housakos and Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan have just repaid their disputed expenses in, what appears to be, an attempt to lessen the media fallout today. Of course, we don’t know if Housakos and Cowan’s expenses were viewed by the Auditor General as personal or community service.
Anyway, it is true that if Eaton, Housakos or Cowan were elected MPs, and the St. Michael’s Hospital Board and the National Ballet of Canada Board were in their constituency, it would be parliamentary work to support them in general, like at grand openings or special anniversaries — but definitely not as a Board member because of the risk of a conflict of interest.
As well, I personally disagree that Senators can expense for partisan activities. Why? Elected officials certainly can’t do that. Let the political parties involved pay with the donations they receive!!!
In my opinion, then, the crux of the matter is that Senators should stick to their parliamentary duties, which involves examining and passing legislation passed by the elected House of Commons. And, at those times when the Senate is not sitting, and they are in their regions, by all means, let them attend special events.
Other than that, community service, as Eaton calls it, should be considered volunteer work, with costs related to that work paid with their own dime — just as it is for the rest of us.