By Sophie Dudley and Brendan Burke
BELLEVILLE – Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he hasn’t met a single person in favour of preserving the Senate – but at Loyalist College, it’s a different story.
In an interview with CTV this week, the opposition leader said that in his pre-election cross-country travels, the proposal to eliminate the Senate has been met with overwhelming support. Mulcair’s comments came just as the auditor general’s report detailing the questionable expenses of several senators was to be released. The audit is slated for publication Tuesday afternoon.
While Mulcair’s longstanding campaign to abolish the Red Chamber has gained momentum in light of high-profile tax-dollar overspending aired out in the ongoing Mike Duffy trial, some at Loyalist College say they still have faith in the Senate.
For Loyalist student and part-time Student Centre employee Byron MacDonald, the institution’s merits outweigh its flaws.
“I can understand (Mulcair’s) perspective when it’s costing taxpayers so much money, but I do think that the process of having a Senate is pretty important,” MacDonald said Monday morning.
“It’s an important process to filter through and senators still do represent the people. I don’t think it’s undemocratic,” he added – a stark contrast to Mulcair’s assertion that the Senate is both “archaic” and “unrepresentative.”
MacDonald is not alone. Loyalist College faculty member David Beer echoes the need for the Senate.
“ I don’t think they should abolish the Senate,” Beer said Monday. “ It’s a good failsafe.”
Beer is quick to add that this “balancing” system is not without its flaws.
“They do have some oversight issues. They’re spending money unwisely,” he admitted.
The issue of overspending has remained at the forefront of Mulcair’s calls for the Senate’s elimination, along with claims that the appointed chamber harms Canada’s democratic process. Loyalist College photography instructor Frank O’Connor disagrees.
“It’s very dangerous for a democracy to have one imperfect level of representation, without a check and a balance,” O’Connor said Monday.
O’Connor offered alternative options to outright abolition.
“I would much rather see a more measured approach to the Senate in the way of Senate reform; there are lots of options. More scrutiny to senator appointments is one.”
While O’Connor is critical of the Senate’s recent troubles, he maintains that its elimination would be a bad move.
“The Senate is obviously in need of some repairs. I don’t think getting rid of it is the way to go. Try and reform it,” he said. “For Mulcair to say this blanket statement, it makes me wonder if he’s thinking it through.”
When Beer is asked specifically what reforms should be considered, he promotes fiscal responsibility.
“Better oversight into their finances, and maybe more explanation into their finances. Maybe have an outside body. Everybody else gets audited – why can’t they?” he asked.
The auditor general’s report, which cost taxpayers $21 million, is set to publish the names of 30 acting and retired senators – including several members appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper – said to owe nearly $1 million in expenses.