Senate posting fails smell test
Kingston Whig Standard
Prime Minister Stephen harper may have inadvertently supported his own case for an elected Senate in appointing Patrick Brazeau to the upper chamber last month.
Brazeau appears to have received the lucrative appointment for two reasons: his close political ties to Harper and the fact that he would boost aboriginal representation in the Senate. Brazeau is national chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
But revelations since the announcement make Brazeau's appointment impossible at this time.
This week, it was revealed that Brazeau is the subject of a sexual harassment complaint before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
He was also investigated last year following an internal complaint by a female staff member at the aboriginal peoples congress.
Brazeau says the internal investigation at the congress cleared him of any wrongdoing. That may be so, though at least one member of the organization's board of directors disagrees with that assessment.
The case before the rights tribunal is a matter of even greater concern. Until it is resolved, too thick a haze of uncertainty hangs over Brazeau's appointment. His suitability for the Senate must be established before he enters the chamber, and that means waiting for the tribunal results.
The appointment is causing other concerns to which Harper must pay attention.
Brazeau is looking into whether he will be able to stay in his position with the congress as well as join the Senate.
This would be a blatant case of double-dipping. Both positions are federally funded, with the money coming out of taxpayers' pockets. The congress chief 's job pays $100,170 a year plus $5,422 expenses, while the Senate post is good for $130,400.
What Brazeau is saying, in effect, is that the Senate job isn't a full-time position. That's certainly news to Canadians, who expect, and reasonably so, that anyone paid a six-figure federal salary should be prepared to work full-time for it.
And there's another important matter concerning Brazeau's young age. Senate appointments are good until age 75. At 34, Brazeau could be hanging around the Red Chamber for another 41 years, though he and Harper apparently have an agreement that he won't stay that long.
"The thought of 41 years is comical at this point," Brazeau told reporters this week.
Message to the senator-to-be: The thought of paying you more than $130,000 a year for 41 years is frightening to us taxpayers. This is no laughing matter.
The prime minister took a lot of heat for his pre-Christmas flurry of Senate appointments, hurriedly made when it looked as though his minority government would be toppled by the Liberal/NDP/Bloc Quebecois coalition. The Senate is currently stacked with a Liberal majority and Harper desperately wanted to bolster the Conservative ranks.
More importantly, the appointments flew in the face of Harper's longstanding pledge to make Senate seats elected positions, thus ensuring greater accountability and ending the practice of dispensing the lucrative positions to party cronies.
Brazeau's appointment fails these tests and several others.
Harper must suspend Brazeau's Senate posting at least until Brazeau is found not guilty of the serious allegations against him.
Letters? Send them to email@example.com.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Posted by Fillibluster at 12:27 PM