Responding to the senate scandal

One criticism I heard from a number of individuals is that I did not firmly state my position on the suspension of senators without pay.

Hearing from constituents is in my view a critically important part of elected office.

Many citizens take the time to offer constructive advice that can help public office holders do a more effective job in representing constituents.

From my own perspective I greatly value the comments and feedback that I receive back each week in response to my weekly reports. In last week’s discussion I raised the topic of the senate and in particular recent efforts to suspend a number of senators without pay.

I also shared some of the feedback I had received on this subject that was overwhelming outrage as most citizens feel strongly that senators should be held to the same standards as everyday citizens.

One criticism I heard from a number of individuals is that I did not firmly state my position on this subject.

Having since re-read last week’s report I agree with my critics in that I did not clearly state my stance on this issue as clearly as I should have and in this week’s report I would like to remedy that.

For the record, I fully support the suspension of these senators without pay and while the majority of citizens I have heard from also strongly support this position, there are a few who disagree.

The argument most frequently made from those who support the senators not being suspended suggest that “due process” should be the guiding factor.

The challenge with that from my experience “due process” as it pertains to elected officials spending tax dollars usually amounts to finding a loophole to justify an expense arguing that it did not technically break any rules and as such there should be no consequences.

I should also add this is not a partisan issue; there have been many examples over the years from members representing all major political parties that have abused tax dollars in expense claims.

The message that I hear loudly from citizens and what I believe needs to be understood in Ottawa is that this issue is not about a procedural argument finding a way to suggest a rule was broken or not.

This is an issue of trust- the public trust. When Canadians elect fellow citizens to represent them in government they expect tax dollars to be respected and used fairly and ethically when it comes to the expenses of public office.

No different than I believe citizens expect elected officials to act honourably, refrain from using profanity, to show up for work and as legislators to not break the law.

For the vast majority of citizens I hear from, if they were to misuse use tax dollars or abuse the funds from an employer they would expect serious consequences for that behaviour.

This same expectation extends not just to the senate but to all elected officials. Last year I posted an annual accountability report. In this report I attempted to provide as much information as possible on a variety of different subjects including travel, sponsored travel, meetings and other activities related to my position as a Member of Parliament.

After doing this report I received a strong level of support from citizens who appreciated the information and effort for increased transparency.

As a result of that feedback I am currently in the process of preparing what will become an annual accountability report summarizing my actions and expenses over the past year.

Although there is no formal requirement for a Member of Parliament to issue annual accountability reports beyond what is already publicly available, I believe increased transparency helps to maintain the integrity of our democratic process.

While Canadians may differ on what policies will best serve the public interest, such as more free trade versus protectionism or perhaps the desirability of lower versus higher taxes, there is one thing we agree on: the need for elected officials to serve in a way that respects the public trust. It is my intention to have my annual accountability report released within the next few weeks and I will welcome your questions and feedback.

I can be reached via email at dan.albas@parl.gc.ca  or by phone at 1-800-665-8711. I look forward to hearing from you.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla. His blog is DaninOttawa.com and previous MP reports can be read at the www.danalbas.com website.