Thursday August 28, 2014

Time to look hard at reform

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper heard about allegations against Senator Patrick Brazeau, he did the right thing — dump him from caucus.

Now he needs to take the next logical step and either make the Senate a meaningful institution or get rid of it altogether.

Brazeau’s appointment was controversial from the start. He was a mere 34 years old in 2008 when called to the Red Chamber — giving him a lifetime of six-figure salary followed by a gold-plated pension.

And the only thing he’s really required to do is show up for work occasionally.

House Leader Peter Van Loan made note of Brazeau’s links to aboriginal groups when he was appointed, as if that were justification. But if anything he’s made a hash of them. In fact, some of his own band members have denounced him:

“We are working very hard at the community and nation level to bring about meaningful and accountable changes but Sen. Brazeau’s dismissive and condescending statements leave no room for meaningful dialogue,” said Chief Gilbert Whiteduck said in a news release earlier this week.

On top of that, a Senate board of internal economy is asking an external auditor to review Brazeau’s residency declarations and expenses.

Now he faces charges of assault and sexual assault.

Ordinarily, politicians could never survive this kind of scandal. Voters would turf them out at their first opportunity.

But Brazeau isn’t going anywhere. He intends to remain in the Senate as an independent, even though Senate rules say a senator facing charges is usually put on leave. He could still collect his $132,000 annual salary and attend sessions.

This case is a vivid reminder that the biggest problem with the Senate is a lack of accountability. Unfortunately, it seems that Harper’s only interest at this point is to distance himself and the Conservatives from the mess.

But he has to stop dithering and do more. At the very least, senators should have to face the electorate on a regular basis. And if that can’t be, then let’s get rid of the Senate once and for all.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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