An age old debate carries on about the efficiency and effectiveness of Canada’s unelected Senate. The current Prime Minister promised to reform Canada’s house of sober second thought but has failed to do so in the six years he’s been in government. The Official Opposition NDP wants to see the Senate abolished but has not yet had the power to do it.
The legitimacy of the body is being questioned publicly since, on August 27, it was discovered that a Liberal Senator had been working and voting for four months after having been declared legally incompetent because of advanced dementia.
Joyce Fairbairn’s was nominated for the Senate by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1984 after working in the Prime Minister’s Office. According to her niece, Fairbairn was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in February 2012. The top aide to her party’s Senate leader signed a declaration of her incompetence in April of this year.
Even after that declaration was signed, Fairbairn attended Senate seatings, voted with her party and had control of an expense and travel budget. (In 2011, Senate travel expenses cost Canadian taxpayers $7.2 million and other expenses cost $13.2 million).
Fairbairn’s colleagues say that they knew she needed to leave her position but didn’t know how to raise the issue with the former Government Leader in the Senate and an almost 30 year history in the Senate. Senator Jim Munson told Jennifer Ditchburn from the Canadian Press that it’s not right to just cut someone off when they’re facing something like Alzheimer’s.
A spokesperson for the current Liberal Senate Leader, James Cowan, told the Toronto Star that this issue was Fairbairn’s personal affair and had nothing to do with her position.
That loyalty is a great thing for Fairbairn, but not so much for Canadians who were looking to the Liberal opposition in the Senate to fight against the Conservative budget bill.
Photo Credit: Scazon