Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/12/2009 (3825 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- The federal NDP have of late been issuing press releases trying to paint various senators as drains on the federal wallet.
Their "Senator of the Week" feature this week went after Winnipeg Liberal Senator Rod Zimmer as the "most expensive party crony."
Zimmer, they said, as a longtime Liberal fundraiser is one of dozens of former party cronies now sitting in the Senate, and he racked up $153,000 in travel and $149,000 in telephone use, mail, printing, and staff costs in 2008-09.
Zimmer attended 78.7 per cent of the Senate's 61 sitting days that year, which according to the NDP means he racked up $6,300 per day in expenses.
The problem with that argument is the assumption that the only days senators are actually working is the days the Senate is actually in session.
Senators take a lot of heat for their work ethic and still feel the sting from scandals like that of former senator Andrew Thompson, who in 1998 was kicked out of the upper chamber after it was discovered he had attended just 14 days between 1990 and 1997.
It's an easy potshot to take and one the NDP relish, since the party doesn't believe in the upper chamber and wants it abolished.
But I highly doubt any NDPer would appreciate being told his or her expenses per sitting day. The same way an MP's work extends beyond just the hours they spend in the House of Commons, the work of a senator does not end when the red chamber goes dark.
At least the Senate actually keeps and releases attendance records for its members. In the House of Commons, the only way to find out how many times an MP attended is to see how often he or she attended a vote.
Not to mention MPs release expenses in general terms only, and only a few will release details of what they expensed. So we can find out Manitoba's MPs charged more than $6.3 million to the taxpayer in 2008-09 for everything from travel to business lunches to office staff. But we can't find out where they went, where they ate, or how many people they have working for them.
Several MPs and House of Commons staff have said the rules for expenses are too strict in Canada to ever let something like the moat-cleaning, luxury television-buying expenses scandal, which has enveloped British MPs for the last year, happen in Canada. That suggests they think Canadian MPs have nothing to hide in their expense claims.
If that were the case, it seems there should be no problem releasing the details, now should there?
A Christmas without snow?
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Ottawa. Well, if you like a Christmas sans snow and with green grass and above-zero temperatures, anyway.
But since my first winter here was the second snowiest Ottawa has ever seen in recorded weather history and last summer the nation's capital broke almost every rainfall record known to Environment Canada, I will not bemoan the lack of anything falling from the sky.
But last week National Capital Commission staff were busy decorating donated Christmas trees at all six official national residences. Yes there are six -- Rideau Hall for the governor general, 24 Sussex Drive for the prime minister in the city and Harrington Lake for the prime minister in the country, Stornoway for the leader of the opposition, The Farm at Kingsmere for the speaker of the House of Commons, and the official guest house at 7 Rideau Gate.
This weekend, Ottawa will come alive with 300,000 Christmas lights switched on at Parliament Hill. The event -- where the public is promised free hot chocolate and Beaver Tails pastries -- is set to coincide with the Olympic torch making its run through the city.
It's nice to see all this festivity. But I have my doubts whether it will have any positive impact on the final week of House debates before MPs rise for their holiday break Friday.
Close to her heart
Before question period each day, MPs are allowed to stand and give a members' statement. Sometimes they use it to promote a constituent's achievements, other times to promote a local event.
Too often lately these statements are being used as partisan attacks on other MPs, which has left a few people wondering whether there is much purpose to them anymore.
But last week, one Manitoba MP proved there is.
In a statement to the House last Monday, Conservative MP Shelly Glover promoted the giving of a travel pillow to all soldiers serving in Afghanistan. The project, www.pillowsfortroops.com, is in memory of 25-year-old Corp. James Hayward Arnal, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in July 2008.
Glover was touched personally by Arnal's death. His father, Ray Arnal, was her partner for many years with the Winnipeg Police Service.
Arnal kept a travel pillow with him on his two tours in Afghanistan, and said the connection it gave him to home was a big help. The program is trying to provide a similar pillow to all soldiers. Each one costs just $5.
The campaign is very close to its goal of 5,000 pillows. As of Dec. 3, they had 4,605 pillows donated.
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