Senate salaries - and other trivialities that Peter Stoffer is studying
There's a lot of idiocy to comment on these days in Canadian political life, and I'm too busy with work to deal with it all. But Nova Scotia NDP MP Peter Stoffer's "revelation" of what 27 new Conservative Senate appointees will cost in salaries and expenses if they serve their full term falls firmly in the category of pot-calling-the-kettle-black on the "wasting taxpayer dollars" front. All Senators - Liberal, Conservative, NDP - are paid out of taxpayer dollars. As are MPs. As are their staffs. As is the entire freaking bureaucracy. This is not news. And until we have Senate reform that is accepted by both the federal government and the provinces, I'd rather that the upper house not sit completely vacant, unable to carry out its responsibilities or represent the provinces it is supposed to serve. Moreover, assuming that days spent sitting in the upper chamber is the only thing that Senators do as part of their jobs is a classic example of setting up a straw-man argument.
Canadian Press, which wrote the non-story, at least isn't wasting taxpayer dollars by writing it. CBC, which decided to cover this non-announcement and waste time on it, did. So did Peter Stoffer, who clearly thinks this is how his time as a Member of Parliament (and the time of his taxpayer-paid staff) should be spent, also wasted taxpayer dollars preparing this media release.
If you want Senate reform, that's fine. But let's not pretend that whatever configuration a revamped upper house assumes will not also entail the spending of taxpayer dollars on salaries and expenses.
And let's also not pretend - even among NDP voters - that until the House of Commons moves to some sort of proportional representation system, that there aren't large swaths of the population that are extremely relieved that the Senate can slow down legislation rammed through a "majority" government elected with 39-43% of the popular vote.
ETA: In other conversations, I've been having, it's been pointed out to me that the NDP isn't in favour of Senate reform, but of complete abolition of the upper house. In that case, I will retract /some/ of what I've said about hypocrisy - but only in so far as it pertains to the cost savings of complete abolition. But let me make two other points here. First, I think the Senate serves useful functions. It does initiate legislation, and it does provide an important corrective to the wording/phrasing of bills. This is particularly important because often legislation is rushed through the House to serve highly partisan aims. Without having a reformed electoral system for the House of Commons, it's also the only check that we have on the false majority governments of the day. And I, for one, would be quite concerned about eliminating the upper house without reforming the lower one.
But my bigger concern is the way that Stoffer has chosen to go after the Senate. If the NDP has principled objections to the role of the Senate or the manner of its appointment, it should tackle them directly. Using the "government is too expensive" line feeds into a very nasty discourse, usually used by the right wing, about trying to eliminate all sorts of government programs and salaries/benefits for public officials. While the NDP may take issue with how certain spending is conducted, I don't think they'd be happy to see public health care eliminated on the basis of what doctors (or even better, nurses) will earn in their lifetime. Nor would they argue in favour of its abolition on the basis of what 27 Conservative citizens of Alberta could potentially cost the health care system over their lifetimes.
Or perhaps they would. But it's a dangerous tactic to start down the path of "government officials/programs are too expensive" argument. Therein lies building massive public support for deep cuts to most of the social programs that the NDP holds dear (as they should!)Recommend this Post