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NDP to propose ending all funding to Senate

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks in Ottawa in March, 2013.

BLAIR GABLE/REUTERS

The NDP is asking MPs to vote on ending all public funding to the Senate as of Canada Day, a motion which will force parties to take sides on the future of the Red Chamber.

Capitalizing on public anger over the Senate expenses controversy, NDP Treasury Board critic Mathieu Ravignat has tabled a motion to be debated Wednesday that proposes "all funding should cease to be provided to the Senate beginning on July 1, 2013."

Parliamentary motions are not binding on the government but a recorded vote on the Ravignat motion will highlight the fact the NDP is the only party calling for the abolition of the Senate.

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The party is capitalizing on rising public anger at the Senate over the expense claims of four Senators, three of which were appointed to the chamber by Stephen Harper.

To end payments to the Senate would leave Parliament paralyzed because the chamber must pass all legislation that the government of the day wishes to enact into law.

Senator Mike Duffy and Senator Pamela Wallin have both left the Conservative caucus to sit as independents over the expenses controversy. Patrick Brazeau, another Harper appointee, has also quit the caucus.

The government has found itself engulfed by the Senate expenses controversy since mid-May when the Prime Minister's then chief of staff Nigel Wright was revealed to have secretly dipped into his own fortune to bail out Mr. Duffy over improperly claimed expenses the senator was under pressure to return to taxpayers.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson is investigating the transaction. Mr. Wright has retained Guy Giorno, another former chief of staff to Stephen Harper, to provide legal advice. Mr. Giorno is an expert in ethics laws.

Three Harper appointees to the Red Chamber – and one Liberal appointee – have faced criticism and audits over claims they filed. Mr. Duffy has repaid his housing expense claims and senators Patrick Brazeau and Mac Harb have been ordered to repay tens of thousands of dollars as well. Senator Pamela Wallin's audit into her travel expenses is continuing.

The RCMP is still reviewing whether it will launch an investigation into the expense-claims matter.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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