Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Should Canadians be taking attendance?

As I posted on Friday, the Senate was about to vote on the 900 page omnibus Bill C-9 which is essentially the budget from March and a whole bunch of other goodies thrown in for good measure. On Friday, Stephen Harper appointed his 34th Senator which gave the Conservatives 52 seats in the 105 seat House, just shy of a numerical majority.

Late Monday night, the Senate voted on the Bill and passed it 48 to 44. When you add those two numbers up, you'll see that the Senate was short a few warm bodies, in fact, 13 Senators were absent from this all important vote.

According to the Globe and Mail, several of the Liberal Senators who are suffering from health issues actually showed up to vote on Bill C-9. However, seven Liberal Senators were absent including Tommy Banks, Sharon Carstairs, Pierre De Bane, Francis Fox, Serge Joyal, David Smith and Nick Sibbeston. Senator Fox had paired his vote with Conservative Senator Claude Carignan so he's given a pass. Senators Banks, Carstairs, De Bane and Joyal were out of the country and Mr. Smith's excuse is not known. Five of 52 Conservative Senators were absent from the vote with explanations ranging from illness to a death in the family.

Here's the voting record showing who voted against sending the Bill with amendments (splitting off sections) back to the House:

...and who voted for:

It is possible that at least 5 of the AWOL Liberal Senators had paired their votes with missing Conservative Senators but that is unknown at this stage. Had the Liberals had full attendance, they, in combination with the three independent Senators that voted their way, could have defeated the Conservatives and Bill C-9 would have been split as was their preference.

Having looked at the attendance record for the House of Commons during voting on this Bill and finding that between 30 and 75 MPs were missing for many of the votes is dismaying. In fact, for the final vote on the Third Reading, 30 Liberal MPs were AWOL. Now we see the same thing in the Senate. Yes, five of the Liberal Senators are out of the country but that's not the point. With Bill C-9 still on the docket, their jobs were not over. The primary responsibility of the Senate is to provide oversight on the business of the House; in this case, some Senators did not meet the requirements of their job.

Here's a quote during the debate last night from Romeo Dallaire:

Senator Dallaire: In that sense, honourable senators, I think that we have a role. Yes, it is part of our exercise and, yes, it is July 12. So what? How many people have a lot of time in the summer to be on leave? I think my place of duty is here. This is the job we are supposed to be doing.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Dallaire: They are not paying us by the hour, or double time and overtime. We are quite prepared to serve. That is the aim of the exercise.

Oh that those Senators missing in action last night took their $132,300 a year (plus perquisites) duties as seriously. I'm starting to wonder if Canadian taxpayers shouldn't have a right to recall Senators and MPs if they habitually miss voting in the House and the Senate. Canadian corporations now reveal attendance records for their Board members; why shouldn't those we pay to govern us be forced to do the same?

By the way, the Senate is on summer holidays until they next meet on Tuesday, September 28th, 2010. A nice, long, well-deserved vacation.

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