Roundup: The unfair treatment of Pamela Wallin

Oh dear – Senator Pamela Wallin may have to end up paying back between $120K and $140K in questionable expenses, but she’s not happy about it, and calls the process unfair. And she’s right to a point – that the auditors applied the post-2012 rules to the pre-2012 period, but Wallin seems to forget that the Internal Economy Committee can also decide what seems to be “reasonable” in terms of the expenses claimed, or what should have been her better judgement. There were also concerns that Wallin and her staff retroactively changed her calendar in order to remove riding association events, though Wallin claims that she was just removing personal details, and that the auditors already had calendar copies as well as access to her hand-written diary, and that Senator Tkachuk told her to, because the process was already bogged down and taking too long. Nevertheless, she plans to pay back the expenses with interest while she challenges the rules. Here’s a look at how Wallin’s audit results may affect other Senators who travel to do studies or promote causes that aren’t immediately the subject of committee duties. This of course brings me to the point of the pundit class and various talking heads – including Marjory LeBreton – going on about how this is some signal that the Senate has to “change or die.” Um, change how? This isn’t an issue about the Senate as it operates, it’s about financial management issues, which is largely with in the financial controls of the Senate’s administration. Do those rules need to be tightened? Sure – and they realised that and have been doing that over the past couple of years. Could they be more transparent? Absolutely – and they’re already far more transparent than MPs are, for that matter. But none of this has to do with the structure of the Senate itself, so somehow trying to make the inappropriate expenses of a small handful of Senators into an indictment of the Chamber as a whole is, quite frankly, intellectually dishonest. More to the point, whenever someone says “reform,” the immediate response is “reform how? To what end?” Chances are, they won’t have an intelligible answer for you, which is telling about the problem with the level of debate, where “reform” is treated like some kind of magical incantation, as though it will somehow make everything better without any kind of plan.

Conservative MP Merv Tweed is resigning his seat to take up a position as president of Omnitrax, a rail company. Incidentally, Tweed is a former chair of the Commons transport committee (currently he is chair of the Commons agriculture committee). And because he’s a backbencher, it’s not against the rules – though he simply can’t lobby for five years.

Not surprisingly, since the introduction of the “safe” country of origin list, refugee claims have dropped in half. Never mind the fact that countries on that list are still seeing legitimate refugees being accepted from them, which means that they may not really be all that “safe” after all.

The fact that embattled Senator Mac Harb appears to have given a Diamond Jubilee medal to the businessman whom he recently took out loans from raises more questions about the secret nature of the way the awards have been handled, and the fact that we still can’t see who all won the awards, let alone who nominated them.

Political science and law professors discuss what Parliament may be able to unilaterally change in the Senate, like property requirements and possibly term limits – though I would argue that depending on the term limit it can have a dramatic impact on the function and character of the Senate, so it’s probably best that it have some level of constitutional protection to keep it from being subject to the whims of a majority Prime Minister with an axe to grind.

Aaron Wherry checks in on the tax debate that the Conservatives have apparently won because nobody, including the NDP, wants to raise them – though I still think that Mulcair’s statements were more about personal income taxes than they are about corporate or other taxes given his rhetoric to date.

Curiously, Statistics Canada has delayed the release of a major set of data from the National Household Survey for data integrity issues, which apparently nobody caught in the past six months. Oops.

The CBC has a look at cyberbullying legislation, and temptation to treat it as a panacea to a much broader social phenomenon, along with the problems of provisions like holding parents to account when they are unlikely to have any idea about the scope of their children’s online activities.

And the founder of a recent Quebec independence party has moved…to England, because the job prospects are better there. Oh, the irony.