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Senate is a kangaroo court – Senate Ethics Officer should not only rule on alleged violations by senators but should also be empowered to impose penalties (or, better yet, just shut down the Senate)

The following letter-to-the-editor by Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch, was published in shorter form in the May 8, 2017 edition of the Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail’s editorial “Is the Senate finally accountable?” (May 4) states that the Senate established a code of ethics in June 2016 with new rules that require senators to uphold “the highest standards of dignity” and not act in a way that could reflect “adversely” on the senator or the senate.

In fact, the code was passed in May 2005, and those rules were added in June 2014. The code rules were also changed in April 2014 to free the Senate Ethics Officer from the control of a committee of senators and allow the Officer, finally, to investigate and rule publicly on any situation. Not surprisingly, the Ethics Officer first issued a public ruling after April 2014 — we will likely never know how many violations the committee covered up in past years.

The Ethics Officer recently ruled on Senator Don Meredith’s actions, and a committee of senators ruled that he should be expelled from the Senate. Your editorial argues that senators voting on the penalty Senator Meredith should face is “a reasonable solution.”

However, politicians are in a blatant conflict of interest when judging another politician, especially concerning the penalty for violating a code that also applies to them. Their bias problem is compounded by the fact that there is no specific penalty for Senator Meredith’s actions set out in the Senate’s code of ethics or in any law.

And what if only a very slim majority of senators vote in favour of expelling Senator Meredith? In every way, the Senate voting on Senator Meredith’s penalty is essentially a kangaroo court.

A much more reasonable solution, one that respects the rules of natural justice and the rule of law, would be for the Senate to add a sliding scale of penalties for violations of their code (to supplement the provisions set out in the Constitution), and to empower the Ethics Officer to impose the penalty for any violation.

Senator Meredith’s scandal, and the way the Senate is dealing with the scandal, provide yet more reasons why the Senate should be shut down.

Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Government Ethics Campaign and Shut Down the Senate Campaign