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Approving expenses

Re: No mercy for ex-Tory senators: local MPs (Oct. 26). The system of checks and balances detailing how federal-employee expense claims are to be processed is sufficient to gladden the heart of any accountant. All expense claims are subject to this process and, by definition, must be approved for payment by a higher authority.

I expect these rules apply to senators as well. The senators under fire did not have access to the till and did not sign their own cheques. So in that regard, they were never in a position to steal, as stated by Tory MP Candice Bergen.

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Reports suggest that some of the claims were at the very least inappropriate. But if the existing system of checks and balances had been operating properly, the mess we have today could not have occurred. So why wasn't it?

HELEN FAST

Winnipeg

 

Most people would agree with MPs Shelly Glover and Candice Bergen that ex-Tory senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau should lose their jobs if it is proven they knowingly made false expense claims regarding their residency and travel costs.

But why the rush to judgment before the senators have had a chance to present evidence in an open and fair hearing, as guaranteed under the "due process" principle of Canadian law?

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that, by trying to focus Canadians' understandable anger over the Senate scandal solely on the senators in question, they are attempting to hide an inconvenient truth.

No matter how you look at it, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is at the centre of this scandal.

It is Harper who appointed the senators.

It is Harper for whom they tirelessly campaigned, both during and in between elections.

It is Harper who initially sang their praises when questions about expenses arose, even to the point of openly defending Pamela Wallin in the House of Commons.

It is Harper's former chief of staff who tried to fix the growing scandal by personally writing a cheque to cover Duffy's repayment.

And it is Harper who is now distancing himself from his former appointees and cheerleaders because he perceives them to be a political liability.

EVELYN FLETCHER

Winnipeg

 

Tory MP Shelly Glover is quoted as saying: "My logical conclusion is that if a senator is caught claiming expenses that he or she didn't incur, they shouldn't be working and getting a paycheque."

This is the pot calling the kettle black, and she certainly didn't apply this standard when she was caught in election fraud, claiming expenses that were not appropriate. The only action taken against her was to disallow the expenses.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander. If the senators are suspended without pay then so should Glover be suspended without pay.

MEL BRAUN

Winnipeg

 

False and misleading

Your Oct. 26 headline Brazeau offered leniency for apology (Oct. 26) is patently false and deliberately misleading. Claude Carignan offered no such thing. He made a "suggestion" of various things Patrick Brazeau could do in order to achieve an improved sanction.

The greatest political problem in Canada is the media, which treat political issues as a game. It is high time for legislation to oblige the media to live by the ethical standards applied to all other Canadians who publish statements. The media must be obliged to be honest and true in every respect.

BILL STEELE

Winnipeg

 

A matter of principle

Re: Manitoba's Plett stands up for his principles (Oct. 25). I see no sign that Senator Don Plett has any principles. He has stated that this is the first time he has ever thought about voting against his party's leader.

Having accepted a position in the chamber of sober second thought, he ought to know that it is his job to think about both sides of issues that come before the Senate. This necessarily requires thinking about voting against his party. Yet this, he claims, he has never done.

Plett refers to Conservative Senate leader Claude Carignan as "the person I am accountable to in the Senate." Carignan is not Plett's boss. Senators with principles would know that they work for the people of Canada and are not accountable to party functionaries.

The real corruption in the Senate is not questionable expense claims. The basic corruption lies with the prime ministers who appoint senators for their blind party loyalty rather than their intelligence and integrity.

NEIL STEWART

Killarney

 

Don Plett's comments pinpoint the root causes of the controversy engulfing the Senate. For a fair performance evaluation in any workplace, worker deficiencies must be identified promptly, and opportunity for correction of identified errors should precede disciplinary action. Ignorance differs from fraud.

One fact is obvious: that the prime minister and the supposedly fiscally astute Conservative Party leadership had no watchdogs to manage the spending by these high-profile Senators. Rules were inconsistently applied. Does the Senate have no authority to establish uniform expense accounting rules, or to implement progressive discipline?

When the instant solution to every problem is "off with their heads,'' the management style belongs in the time of Henry VIII.

JEAN A. PATERSON

Winnipeg

 

City hall snow job

The media are awash with tales of corruption and questionable doings at city hall which will, no doubt, result in a huge waste of our tax money.

Yet, the city has the gall to tell the taxpayers that it cannot afford to clear residential streets of snow properly and we will have to make do with one measly strip down the centre. What's next? Homeowners with shovels out on the road, doing what the city is supposed to be doing with our tax dollars?

BARBARA J. FISHER

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 29, 2013 A10

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