Should Canadian taxpayers pay expenses related to Senators’ “community service?”

Canada's Auditor General
Canada’s Auditor General

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.


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Sandy is a retired educator, author & former conservative political strategist. She operated the first "Crux of the Matter" from 2006 until 2017 and opened this "Crux of the Matter 2.0" blog in late August, 2018.

13 thoughts on “Should Canadian taxpayers pay expenses related to Senators’ “community service?”

  1. Good morning Sandy, millions of dollars, CBC, CTV or as I prefer the “consortium” going into a feeding frenzy.
    So at the end of the day who are in the top 5 Senators?
    Mostly Liberals gentle readers, go over to Rebel news.
    This is just another gotcha by our corrupt media.
    Nothing to see here folks but the usual suspects acting out their Harper derangement syndrome.


  2. Thanks Bubba for the rebel link. I still am against any of them using taxpayers dollars for their pet projects. But, I hear you. Harper derangement syndrome in full view.


  3. I’ve sung this song before … and some may consider it off-key … but here goes anyway. I still maintain that anyone who works for the government, be it an MP, a senator, or a civil servant, should not be able to expense his/her travel & living accommodations, his/her meals, and other such expense account items. Increase their salaries but absolutely remove all those temptations, unless we find a way to perfect human nature to such an extent that NO ONE would ever choose a grilled cheese sandwich instead of a filet mignon when the bill can be submitted for someone else to pay for it.

    Another song in my repertoire is media anti-Conservative bias … but occasionally I find an article that hits the right note, IMO. The CP’s Joan Bryden, in a June 8 article titled “Double standard: MPs spare themselves same spending scrutiny given senators”, lists the following MPs or parties that have allegedly abused public funds:
    “Since 2010, the board has demanded reimbursement from:
    — Liberal MP Judy Sgro, $60,000 in improperly claimed living expenses for renting an Ottawa condo she had sold to her children.
    — Liberal MP Wayne Easter, $8,050 in living expenses claimed for a property he no longer owned.
    — Former Liberal MP John Cannis, $106,842 for living expenses claimed for an apartment rented from his wife.
    — 68 current and former NDP MPs, $2.7 million for allegedly improperly using their Commons budgets to pay the salaries of staffers in satellite party offices.
    — 23 NDP MPs, $1.17 million for allegedly improperly using free parliamentary mailing privileges to send almost 2 million partisan missives.”
    Hmm, very interesting. Nary a Conservative among them. That’s not to say Conservatives are perfect. But I’m happy not to see any Conservative in the group above. And those MPs’ misuse of “expensing” privileges reinforces my argument that all those perks should be eliminated.


  4. I agree Sandy some of the the Senators are being little piggys, would appear the rules are very open to abuse.
    How is it that the Liberal and PC piggys are special piggys and are invisable to the consortium
    I am cut no slack from Revenue Canada regarding my expenses,.
    The media however can only see Mr Duffy, funny that.
    Day XXIIVI of the “Duffy Trial” and all that.
    Reminds me of Mr Mandsbridge counting off the days of the 4 star hotel hunger strike.
    Speaking of Mandsbridge, how much does he make ?
    A Canadian taxpayer is curious.


  5. Interesting songs Gabby. I don’t know if it is still done that way but when I worked for the Harris era MPP, he initially got $16,000 automatically over and above his salary to pay for those possible expenses. I agree that it might be the easiest way. And, I also agree that the scrutiny is not the same. MPs don’t dare expense for partisan activities, for instance.


  6. Bubba –I can’t remember where I read it but it is alleged that Mansbridge makes in the 800,000 range. However, if anyone has a link, I would appreciate it being dropped in this thread.


  7. As I see it Ms Eaton’s home town is Toronto, and many of her board activities and other volunteer work predate her being appointed to the Senate. It she had no place to charge these activities to before, then they should not really come under Senate expenses. Either the work is worthwhile or it isn’t, but she must have many colleagues also doing such work and absorbing the expenses.
    Have to agree with you that the priority of Senators is studying and reviewing proposed legislation. Senators are paid handsomely for these duties, it is not as if they are volunteering to serve in Ottawa. This is somehow lost sight of in the frenzy over expense claims.
    Might it not even be better to raise salaries and greatly reduce expense accounts and the ever present temptation to claim almost everything as an expense?


  8. Scandal at CBC….. Solomon has been fired, pass the crying towels.

    As for Mansbridge, we might assume his salary has to be an obscene amount for a news reader when the taxpayers who pay his salary cannot find out what it is. That in itself is scandalous.


  9. Perhaps it’s uncharitable of me … but I’m glad Solomon is no longer host of Power & Politics. I was just thinking today how refreshing it was to have Rosie Barton as the moderator of the power panel, with her technique of giving each participant room to have his/her say, without the far too many interventions Solomon used to do. Despite her unobtrusive style of moderating, she is very direct in asking clear concise questions.

    I also wonder whether Solomon’s alleged conflict of interest will be viewed as a reflection of the poor judgment of whichever CBC poobah decided to hire him. That’s what the commentariat usually does in PM Harper’s case, isn’t it? He’s held responsible whenever someone he hired or appointed goes astray.

    Having said that … I hope Solomon finds another venue for his talents.


  10. Unreal re Solomon. He wasn’t fired because of his overt anti-Conservative political bias but due to his taking commissions for art purchases?


  11. Gabby — I have read the Star reports and for the life of me I don’t get the conflict of interest. In the case of Balsillie, he was never on his show. The fact the art dealer, Bailey didn’t tell Balsillie he was giving a commission to Solomon, is not a smoking gun. Why would he? Yes, Solomon invited Balsillie on his show but he declined the invitation. I mean, I can’t stand Solomon but I am puzzled over the CBC’s rationale. Yes, he knew the former Gov. of the Bank of Canada, but they had apparently been friends for years.

    Wrongful dismissal law suit for sure. Lot’s of people have ways of making money beyond their jobs. Particularly lobbying which is essentially what Solomon was doing — having Bailey and people with money meet up to discuss art. Solomon would have had no way of knowing if they would ultimately buy but Bailey could not have sold anything to them if Solomon had not introduced them. Real estate agents call it a finders fee. MPs and Cabinet Ministers do it too but they don’t call it lobbying or acting as a go-between. They call it doing their jobs.

    Yup, this is going to get nasty. Like you I hope he finds another venue for his talents — maybe selling art — and no I am not joking — as Solomon seems to have a knack for it.

    In the U.K., there is a program, which we get on TVO and PBS from time to time, called “Fake or Fortune.” It is one of my favourites and Solomon could put something together like that.


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