Political system needs more transparency

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A new poll that shows Canadians overwhelmingly believe politicians are ripping them off should be a wake-up call for those in power. An already cynical electorate is quickly losing the little interest they have left in a political system that’s still democratic but anything but representative.

The Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey indicated that 86 per cent of those polled believe it’s likely that MPs and senators are claiming improper expenses. Of those, 56 per cent said it’s very likely.

The poll comes after weeks of ongoing controversy over the spending habits and questionable living and travel expenses of four senators Mike Duffy, Patrick Brazeau, Pamela Wallin and Liberal Marc Harb.

It has been said many times this scandal is something that’s going to plague both the elected House of Commons and unelected Senate for years to come. It’s leading to renewed calls for reforming Canada’s upper house or eliminating it all together. It’s also leading to increased calls for more scrutiny and transparency on what our members of parliament are claiming as expenses.

Nova Scotians will soon be sharpening their pencils and entering polling stations to cast ballots in a provincial election. Those who think what’s happening in Ottawa won’t impact the election here are sadly mistaken.

Nova Scotia politicians recently had their own spending scandal with several MLAs being publicly ridiculed and charged and convicted for improperly spending taxpayers money on things like generators, computers, big screen televisions and computer games.

We also had two MLAs – one a cabinet minister – engage in a dustup inside Province House after a particularly raucous session of the legislature, while a Cape Breton MLA was asked to pay back a month’s pay after taking a month away from the legislature to vacation in Florida.

It seems as though election to the legislature or House of Commons, or appointment to the Senate has developed a culture of entitlement among our elected and appointed representatives. It would almost appear as though parliamentary or Senate life has shifted way from being one of representing Canadians to one of taking advantage of Canadians.

There can be little doubt some of the shenanigans that have taken place in both Ottawa and Halifax have gone on since the birth of Confederation. What’s happened is that Canadians are more aware of what’s going on in both our nation’s capital and in Halifax. They want greater transparency in government and they’re going to get it. The sad thing is if they don’t get results they’ll disengage and the level of cynicism will continue to the point no one will show up when elections are held. That would be a sad day for Nova Scotia and Canada.

Organizations: House of Commons, Canadian Press Harris-Decima, Province House

Geographic location: Canada, Ottawa, Nova Scotia Halifax Florida

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