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Justin Trudeau: Won't abolish Senate because it benefits Quebec

Mark Dunn. (Andre Forget/QMI Agency)

By Mark Dunn, Senior National Reporter

OTTAWA -- The scandal-plagued Senate has a cheerleader in Justin Trudeau after the Liberal leader said he wouldn't abolish the chamber because it's to Quebec's gain over other provinces to keep the lights on.

"We have 24 senators from Quebec and there are just six from Alberta and British Columbia. It's to our advantage," he told a French newspaper.

"To want to abolish it is demagoguery," he said in a rebuke of NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair's campaign to mothball the place. "We'll have to improve it."

Mulcair responded Sunday that it's not to anyone's advantage to keep the Senate.

"New Democrats believe that all Canadians win if we roll up the red carpet. Justin Trudeau's solution to the Senate scandal is to replace Conservative bagmen, hacks and operatives with Liberal bagmen, hacks and operatives."

Marjory LeBreton, Government leader in the Senate, said the comments are "divisive" and "underscore the Liberal policy on the Senate: the status quo."

It's not the first time the Montreal MP has put Quebec's interests first.

In 2010, he told an interviewer he was tired of Albertans running the country and that Quebecers have made the best prime ministers - remarks his staff said were taken out of context.

Mulcair's vision to demolish the 105-seat Red Chamber is shared by Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, a former advocate of reform.

"I think it's time to abolish the Senate. I think it's reflective of what Canadians are saying. I don't think reform is possible. I think abolition is also difficult, but it's "¦ more doable than reform," said the Conservative premier.

New Democrats and Liberals are set to grill Stephen Harper this week when the prime minister returns to the Commons amid charges of a cover-up and a RCMP review of Senate spending that could lead to a criminal investigation and charges.

Harper was away last week and left others to defend against allegations his office influenced Tory senators to alter a report into Sen. Mike Duffy's expenses.

The opposition also disputes Harper's insistence he was unaware Nigel Wright, his chief of staff, cut a $90,000 cheque so Duffy could return housing allowances and other benefits he was not entitled to receive. Wright later resigned.

Senators' Patrick Brazeau, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin are also in the line of fire over expense accounts.

On Tuesday, the Senate plans to debate reforms to tighten spending critics say likely won't go far enough to convince taxpayers their money is safe.

Mark.Dunn@sunmedia.ca


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