Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Needed audit

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THE auditor general's unprecedented decision to examine the expenses of each of Canada's 100 senators is both fair and necessary.

The sad truth is that the scandals involving Sens. Patrick Brazeau, Mike Duffy, Mac Harb and Pamela Wallin have cast a pall over the entire Senate and politicians in general.

Senators who have lived within the rules and shown respect for the public purse deserve to have their names cleared.

As it stands, cynics regard them all as scallywags enjoying a free ride on the public's dime, while contributing little value to the Canadian body politic.

At the same time, the public deserves to know if the abuse is limited to the four people under suspicion, or if there is a general sense of entitlement and privilege that pervades the entire institution. If so, demands for change and even abolition of the Red Chamber will grow increasingly louder.

The auditor likely also will consider if the rules governing Senate residency requirements and spending authority are too vague and partly to blame for the spreading scandal. If so, he is the right person to recommend new regulations and limits on the ability of senators to travel for the simple purpose of networking, and even for some partisan purposes.

Weak rules, however, are not an excuse for abuse of power. Sen. Wallin in particular ought to have known her Senate sinecure was not a passport for a jet-setting lifestyle.

Senators who understood the principles of public service have nothing to fear from the audit. Let's hope they are in the vast majority.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2013 A8

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