Accountability is never a bad thing.
Especially when it comes to politics. Particularly now, as the Senate scandal continues to rage, with its reverberations felt from coast to coast. Time should reveal what exactly went down with suspended Senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau, and Sen. Marc Harb, who resigned. It's difficult to determine at the moment because of the volume of arguments and rhetoric.
Don't be surprised if there are more senators who are outed as the light shines on every corner of the house.
One thing is clear, the days of senators escaping public probing are over. Former Sen. Andrew Thompson, who "served" from 1967-1998 but lived much of the time in Mexico, became the first poster child for upper house largesse. There's no way Canadians would stand for that today, particularly in light of the current senate debacle.
The race is now on to determine who will be the party that is "most accountable." Will it be the Conservatives, who could try to take credit for cleaning up the senate expenses by using several of their own as examples? Or will it be the federal Liberals, who have been pushing to have the party's MPs and senators provide detailed expense reports online for anyone's consumption? Not to be outdone, the provincial government just released their lists of individual member compensation and travel expenses, which is a step in the right direction. It doesn't include a great deal of information, though, other than raw numbers.
Welcome to the new 'business' of politics. When a business person files their expense report, the company expects certain details. How much was the bill? Where did the expense take place? What was the reason for the expense? Who attended? This is all reasonable, and necessary. Owners and shareholders need to know where their money is being spent, on what, with whom and for what reason. Messing up on one's expense report could result in a one-way ticket to the unemployment line.
That information is important, not just to satisfy the demands of the Canada Revenue Agency, but to also a chart an employees' trail throughout the month, and is really a company secret. Imagine if hungry competitors could learn what the salesperson who holds a lucrative account was up to? How could they not resist the temptation to use that knowledge to their advantage?
The taxpaying public has a right to know what their elected representatives are doing with the money they send to Ottawa, Victoria and our own city hall. Should we not, however, be concerned that our zeal for accountability results in making ourselves needlessly vulnerable in terms of competitiveness and public safety? Let's say a federal minister was having consecutive meetings with a counterpart from another country. Looking past how much was spent on food and drink, those expense forms could potentially yield information that may be dangerous in the hands of Canada's enemies.
Without question, we need more accountability from our elected officials. We also need to be practical. While our taxpayers have a right to know what their money is being spent on, citizens in other countries most certainly do not. We must be very careful how we decide to open this Pandora's Box, as our new 'open book' could cause more problems than we realize.
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