Code of silence crosses party lines
Parliament Hill. (Chris Roussakis/QMI Agency)
Is there anyone left on Parliament Hill with clean hands?
Canadians have been treated to a daily parade of outraged MPs fuming over the Senate expense scandal. Demands for audits followed by demands for more answers on edited reports, secret deals, resignations and a cheque issued by the prime minister’s chief of staff to then-Conservative Sen. Mike Duffy.
All the while MPs have known about abuse in their own ranks and remained silent.
The reason for the silence is the behind-the-scenes treatment MPs give themselves. Believe it or not, the code of silence crosses party lines and most MPs appear to want to keep it that way.
In 2010 it was revealed that two Liberal MPs, Judy Sgro and John Cannis, were claiming a rental allowance from the taxpayers on property owned by their families.
Cannis, a now-defeated MP, was claiming rent on an apartment owned by his wife; Sgro claimed the rental allowance on an apartment she had once owned but then sold to her children.
Both cases were clear violations of House of Commons rules, but both MPs were dealt with quietly and behind closed doors by the secretive, all-party Board of Internal Economy.
At the time, no MP from any party would openly discuss the case or criticize the obviously improper use of taxpayers’ money.
According to media reports, Cannis was forced to pay back $106,842, while Sgro was forced to pay back $60,332. Neither politician has been forthcoming with details of their own personal scandal.
It makes you wonder how many others there were and why MPs from competing parties were covering for each other.
So far we know of one more.
Liberal MP Wayne Easter was ordered to repay $8,050.26 in rebates he received for a property he didn’t own. Seems like Easter kept claiming an allowance on the property even after selling it.
All together, these three MPs — and there could be more — improperly claimed $175,224, which is not too far off the $190,398 improperly claimed by senators Duffy, Harb and Brazeau.
What’s fascinating is that the Senate has been more open about this issue than the House of Commons.
The Senate ordered the audits and released them to the public; the Commons continues to keep spending scandals like this under wraps.
At a news conference Thursday calling for the prime minister’s office to answer more questions about the Senate expense scandal, Liberals were non-committal on the need for more openness on living expenses for MPs.
“I don’t think the systems are structured adequately at the moment,” Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said.
Hardly a call for full transparency.
Whether it is MPs or senators, the public should know much more about how these very well-paid public servants spend our money.
We need more answers on the Senate scandal and the deal at the PMO, but anyone who thinks there isn’t more funny business happening in the House of Commons is fooling themselves.
We know about Sgro, Cannis and Easter, but who else is there?
In Alberta, all living and travel expenses for members of the legislature are posted online for all to see.
This is the way the Commons and Senate should go, but so far they are afraid to.