UPDATE 1-Canada Senate scandal report puts pre-election pressure on Harper

Tue Jun 9, 2015 5:27pm EDT
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(Adds reaction from prime minister's office, opposition)

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 will put pressure on 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 senators, who are appointed to Parliament's upper chamber by the prime minister of the day and serve indefinitely until age 75.

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.

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 legislators say the scandal makes a mockery of the promise Harper made when he took power in 2006 to increase accountability and clean up the Senate. Polls show he will struggle to win another majority.

Harper insists the scandal has nothing to do with him and those found guilty should be punished. The official opposition New Democrats, who have never held power federally and therefore have never appointed a senator, say he is deeply implicated.   Continued...