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Money

Another Canadian Senator Is Wasting Our Money

Pamela Wallin has racked up over half-a-million dollars in travel expenses since 2009. Luckily for her, she still has her job.
August 14, 2013, 5:02pm

Goddamnit Pam, stop smiling. This is serious. via WikiCommons.

"Bend the rules, you will be punished; break the law you will be charged; abuse the public trust, you will go to prison." Who said that? None other than Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2005.

But today’s another day, and another Canadian senator has been caught misspending taxpayer dollars. Luckily for her, she still has her job.

In May, Senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb were all found to be blowing Canadian taxpayer dollars on things that aren’t supposed to be expenses—and now Pamela Wallin’s name has been added to the list of senators being investigated by the RCMP. Since officially joining the Senate on New Years day 2009, she claimed $532,508 in travel expenses and is now being asked to repay $121,348 with another $20,978 that is still being investigated.

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As I told you earlier this summer, the Canadian Senate is a pure waste of money.

The report released Monday points out 94 times when Wallin stopped over at her condo in Toronto for one or more nights in between Senate business in Saskatchewan—the province she represents but doesn’t actually live in—and Ottawa over a 46 month period. While sometimes the Harper-appointed senator actually did need to go to TO, she spent more of her time there than in Ottawa or Saskatchewan where she was supposed to be working.

Part of the way through the audit, Wallin tried to go back and make 400 changes to her electronic calendar about what she did over that time until she got caught. In a statement made yesterday she said she didn’t mean to mislead the investigation and that another Senator David Tkachuk—the Conservative who spearheaded making Senate expenses public in 2010—told her to only leave in ”information relevant to the actual expenses being claimed.” It’s all a big misunderstanding, according to Wallin who said the extra expenses were all either mistakes or built on the basis of “apparently some arbitrary and undefined sense of what constitutes ‘Senate business’ or ‘common Senate practice.’"

In reality, the expenses were for personal business such as flights for her work on corporate boards and as chancellor at the University of Guelph or for “partisan related activity, such as fundraising.” Her lawyer defended by claiming filing expenses for fundraising “was generally accepted practice” among all senators and that none of the expenses were of “any financial advantage to the senator.”

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So, let’s get this straight. It is common practice for senators to use Canadian taxpayer dollars for fundraising for their own party?

According to her lawyer, the fundraising wasn’t during election time, but what if it was and it was charged to the Senate instead of the party? That money could lead to disqualifications during elections and apparently everyone is doing it? Yikes.

What’s more, this misuse of the $92.5 million annually we spend to keep the Senate going is flat out cheating. A party like the NDP who has no seats in the Senate gets completely left without Senate money to help them fundraise. It’s no wonder why they want to abolish it.

At least unlike Mike Duffy who had the Prime Minister’s chief of staff cut him a $90,000 cheque to pay back his expense “mistakes,” Wallin has already begun paying the money back.

Obviously Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his party have thrown Wallin under the bus for this and essentially kicked her out of the Conservative caucus in May. But, the government is not calling for jail time. They just want her to return the money plus interest. If the RCMP lets her off the hook, or if she is given a sentence of less than two years, Wallin will have her job until 2028 when she turns 75.

The Harper government is getting absolutely reamed for all these Senate scandals and it could very well lead to their defeat in 2015. The funny part is that the only reason we know about any of these scandals is because the Senate sought out more transparency on his watch. They’ve also tried to fix it by making 11 new rules to make expense claims more clear, as opposed to the “honour system” that it used to be, but it’s too little too late.

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Case in point: Former Cabinet Minister Bev Oda who resigned on July 3 admitted she spent taxpayer dollars on a $1000 limo, an expensive stay at a Five Star luxury hotel in London, and a $16 glass of orange juice.  We're not sure what we're outraged by more: the fact that she carelessly spent taxpayer money on spoiling herself, or the fact that somewhere in London they're charging 16 bucks for O.J.

The Harper from eight years ago would be SMH-ing at 2013’s Harper for not throwing these politicians in jail while everyone under his watch seems to be sipping on baller citrus beverages and enjoying extraneous vacations.

Joel wants you to follow him, unless you're a spend-heavy senator: @JoelBalsam

Previously:

The Canadian Senate is a Waste of Money