Have we reached the point in Canada that many in the United States believe they have where the obvious benefits of voting for experienced political candidates is outweighed by the dangers? When members of parliament in Ottawa avoid scrutiny and seek to dodge transparency simply because they believe they can, I begin to wonder if we do not need a new more representative group of lawmakers.
I am concerned that many MPs, who are career politicians, have simply lost touch with the real world. For, in the real world, those who depend on others for their pay cheques understand they must be open and transparent to their bosses. This includes inconveniences such as periodic audits and other checks on their spending.
James Moore, the Canadian Heritage minister who represents the Vancouver-area Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam riding says, “I represent about 120,000 people in the House of Commons. I haven’t had one constituent contact me on it [the Auditor General’s request to audit MPs’ expenses].”
Polls on this issue show overwhelming support for Sheila Fraser to be allowed to review MPs’ expenses, but, I guess, Mr. Moore’s constituents are the rare exception who don’t care. Or, at least, don’t care enough to contact him about it.
But I thought Cabinet Ministers were there to represent all Canadians, not just their constituents. It doesn’t seem that way. So when, for example, a poll for QMI Agency found 88 per cent of people surveyed want more openness on MP expenses, Mr. Moore can safely ignore it. (QMI Agency handles this sort of stuff for the Toronto Sun Newspaper.)
So too, apparently, can Prime Minister Harper, who has famously said that it is not up to the government to interfere. The fact that his four MPs—who sit on the nine-member Board of Internal Economy that denied Ms. Fraser’s request—could have overturned the decision with the support of the Bloc’s member seems of no account to PM Harper. I can’t help contrast this hands-off attitude by the PM with the voting discipline exerted on Conservative MPs on other matters.
As to opposition leader Michael Ignatieff: he wants to have a meeting with Sheila Fraser. … to negotiate with her? What’s there to negotiate? The whole purpose of an Auditor General is to be independent and not to be told what she can and cannot do in an audit, and she certainly should not have to explain, as Mr. Ignatieff suggests, “what she wants to do” to him.
Mr. Ignatieff also famously said “… but I don’t think they [voters] want us to be going through our receipts for this meal and that meal.”
Yes, Mr. Ignatieff, they do.
Mr. Ignatieff then added:
“We Canadians probably don’t really want full accountability from MPs because it would cost too much. There is accountability that is in itself a waste of public money. Do you understand what I am saying?”
Would, in Mr. Ignatieff’s estimation, the Liberal Party sponsorship scandal have qualified as one of those audits that wasted money, I wonder?
And, of course, we have career politician MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.) who said last week that he didn’t believe the board should overturn its decision:
“We’re MPs, we’re elected, and what she [AG Sheila Fraser] wanted to do was a performance audit. She was very clear in that. That performance audit is not her responsibility. It’s not within her mandate for the MPs. That performance audit is done every time we have an election, it’s the electorate that makes that decision, not her.”
Hard for the electorate to make such decisions when we cannot get at the details and have them audited for voracity, isn’t it?
The current batch of career politicians in Ottawa are pretty smug: who will the electorate punish if all parties stand together? Well, of course, there is the nomination process in the individual riding associations—it is there that the dump the incumbents campaigns will begin.
I have never seen such all-party (except the Bloc) unity before and, sadly, the MPs chose the voters/taxpayers to unify against. The rascals haven’t been able to agree on the time of day for years, not even when it may have been in the country’s best interests, but on this file they are agreed.
Shame on them all!