Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Senate: Drunkards and scammers need not apply

My earnest and hard-working husband will be going for a job interview today to be a school bus driver. To get that job, which pays not much above minimum wage, he had to have a criminal and vulnerable person background check to make sure that he is not a child molester. He then had to go down to the cop shop to have his fingerprints done, because apparently, one person was born in Manitoba, on the same date as him, who just got pardoned for sex offences. The fingerprints will rule Scott out as that deviant.

After the criminal check, he has to take an airbrake licence and have a three-person interview. After that, his references will be checked.

This is the process that the ordinary Canadian has to follow to get a crap job. People with higher up jobs have quite a bit more vetting. They are first screened by the head hunter, then undergo a series of interviews, often testing for their ability to speak various languages, to write at a Grade Nine level and think logically. In fact, people who work at the Home Depot and other craps jobs have to undergo similar scrutiny and take courses before they are allowed to sell you a widget or a valve.

To be in the Canadian Senate, Canadians have to pass a criminal and credit check and own a piece of property costing $4,000 in the general vicinity of the place they are supposed to represent. For this effort, they are given a job for life, a job we now know is extremely difficult to lose.

A Senator only has to have the approval of one person, the Prime Minister of Canada, to get this gig. There is no formal oversight committee to determine whether this person is worthy for the job or not. He or she can be a singer, a hockey player, a political money launderer, a journalist, a farmer, butcher, baker or Indian chief.

Once in the Senate, that person is given the responsibility to vet all the legislation that your duly elected representatives in the House of Commons vote for. If they don't like it, they can send it back causing months of delay. They are not accountable. Not for anything.

Which brings up the question: why not?

When Mark Carney was up for the job of the Governor of the Bank of Canada, he got vetted by an all-party committee. Ditto the Auditor-General. Ditto the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Ditto for judges.

So why should Senators get away scott-free? If there was a vetting process, our little hero Patrick Brazeau would have been grilled over charges of mishandling funds at the Assembly of First Nations and about the sexual harassment charges leveled against him. People would have been able to come forward and question his past machinations.

Other Senators would have been questioned about their past trespasses, such as drunk driving convictions and dubious expense claims at their previous workplaces.

It's all about character, don't you see?

At the very least, the Senators might realize that there are rules to be followed and conduct to be expected from somebody who will be on the public dole for a period up to 40 years.

And the Prime Minister might take the appointment process a little more seriously.

Then there would be no great need for Senate Reform, at least at this juncture.

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