The Senate Motion to Call Upon Members of the House of Commons to Invite the Auditor General to Conduct a Comprehensive Audit of Expenses-Debate Continued


Motion Speech Senator Jane Cordy May 6th, 2014

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Downe, seconded by the Honourable Senator Chaput:

That the Senate call upon the Members of the House of Commons of the Parliament of Canada to join the Senate in its efforts to increase transparency by acknowledging the longstanding request of current and former Auditors General of Canada to examine the accounts of both Houses of Parliament, and thereby inviting the Auditor General of Canada to conduct a comprehensive audit of House of Commons expenses, including Members' expenses, and

That the audits of the House of Commons and the Senate be conducted concurrently, and the results for both Chambers of Parliament be published at the same time.

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I am also going to speak to Senator Downe's motion, which calls upon the members of the House of Commons to join the Senate in its efforts to increase transparency by acknowledging the long-standing request of the Office of the Auditor General of Canada to examine the accounts of both houses of Parliament. This audit would help to ensure that Canada's tax dollars are spent justly. I would also like to thank Senator Downe for bringing this motion to the Senate of Canada in the spirit of more openness and accountability for all parliamentarians. Canadians deserve no less.

Current and former Auditors General of Canada have long expressed their willingness and readiness to conduct an audit of both houses, the Senate and the House of Commons. Indeed, Michael Ferguson, in an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs in November, touted his office's "unique ability to contribute" to such a study. With his office's extensive experience and expertise with government procedures and financial practices, he feels that his office is best able to take on this task.

Mr. Ferguson also cited a discussion paper his office had produced, a passage from which neatly summarizes what is at stake:

As long as there are questions about the transparency of payments made to members, the public will have doubts about the integrity of the whole system. It is essential for the well-being of Canada that its Parliament enjoys public respect, rather than being criticized for a lack of transparency in public spending that would be open to scrutiny in other jurisdictions.

Fortunately, honourable senators, members of the House of Commons have a simple solution to this problem: Invite the Auditor General in to conduct the same kind of comprehensive audit that is currently under way in the Senate. We can't tell the other place how to manage their affairs any more than they can tell us how to manage ours; but we can urge them to listen to Canadians who are calling for a Parliament that is transparent in its affairs.

I urge honourable senators to join in and support Senator Downe's motion. Canadians demand that the House of Commons face the same level of scrutiny as the Senate. As I'm sure we would all agree it is necessary to maintain an accountable and transparent government when it comes to the spending of public funds. Inviting the Auditor General of Canada to conduct such a comprehensive audit of House of Commons' expenses, including members' expenses, would be the prudent course of action. Canadians demand this scrutiny. I know that senators welcome this scrutiny. The Auditor General believes this type of financial scrutiny is necessary.

This type of audit can only be conducted at the request of MPs themselves. There's something inherently wrong with this procedure. In Nova Scotia, former Auditor General Jacques Lapointe simply announced he was doing the audit of MLAs because it was public money. The Auditor General of Canada should be allowed to do his job and subject all of Parliament to the same level of financial scrutiny as the upper chamber. This is what Canadians are demanding.

I've quoted the current Auditor General Michael Ferguson. I shall close by quoting his predecessor. In 2006, following an appearance before the Senate Legal Committee at which she referred to discussions regarding an audit of Parliament, the well- respected then Auditor General Sheila Fraser remarked, "I think Parliament's auditor should audit Parliament."

Honourable senators, it is difficult - it is impossible - to argue that point.

I would like to thank Senator Downe again for his courage in bringing forward this motion for transparency of all of Parliament in light of what he has been hearing from Canadians.