Canada Senate scandal report puts pre-election pressure on Harper

Tue Jun 9, 2015 3:30pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA, June 9 (Reuters) - Members of Canada's Senate improperly spent almost C$1 million ($810,000) in just two years, according to a report released on Tuesday that is expected to pressure Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper ahead of October's general election.

After receiving the report from Auditor General Michael Ferguson, the Senate last week referred the cases of two sitting and seven former senators to police for criminal investigation.

The watchdog's report follows a spending scandal involving members of the Senate, who are appointed to Parliament's upper chamber by the prime minister of the day.

The 105-member Senate, officially charged with reviewing legislation passed by the lower house, has historically been criticized as a dumping ground for political operators. The recent scandal has pushed it deeper into disrepute.

Justin Trudeau, leader of the opposition Liberals, kicked all his party's 29 senators out of caucus last year as the scandal spread.

Ferguson's investigation uncovered C$992,663 in irregular spending and expense claims made by 30 current and former senators. Eight of those senators were appointed by Harper, who is trying to pull off a rare fourth consecutive election victory in October.

Opposition parties say the scandal makes a mockery of the promise Harper made when he took power in 2006 to increase accountability. Polls show he will struggle to win another majority.

"Not all senators' expenses ... were properly controlled or incurred for parliamentary business and with due regard for the use of public funds," said Ferguson, who examined spending from April 2011 to March 2013.   Continued...