Frank Roll Call: The Twelve Days of Senate Shiftlessness

Patience, Jeffrey Simpson.

The Globe and Mail gasbag emeritus was no doubt as deflated as my organ that he was not among those appointed to that self-selected Trudeauvian meritocracy, the Canadian Senate.

Jeffy was one of the 2,700 aspiring troughers who made the Aug. 4 application deadline–a month to the day after he signed off at the Globe. The application required ticking off a series of boxes, penning a 1,000-word essay on his brilliance and providing three references.

Alas, the pasty white sexagenarian heterosexual proved neither female nor Sikh nor French enough for one of six Ontario Senate pews, and was pipped for the token dead white male spot by retired Federal Court judge and OSC supremo Howard Wetston.

“A body that represents the worst mistake of the original Confederation arrangements,” Simpson once wrote of the august chamber, only, it seems, to be proven right! When will the Liberals end this cruel teasing? It may take until Christmas, but shurely we shall see the Great Canadian™ take his rightful place among the senescent and sententious of the Upper House.

In the meantime he may take comfort that there are some Hon. Senators we rarely see there either.

The Red Chamber, despite the current round of puffed-resumé redecoration, remains the great payola in the sky for countless party dogsbodies, a six-figure salary for a three-day work week, with perks up the wazoo. A dying breed perhaps, but one that is dying well at $145,400 and all you can eat, as per R. v. Duffy.

But pity the trougher who, having spent years assiduously bagmanning and braunnosing to earn that Red Chamber Craft-Matic, discovers the unspeakable tedium of actually showing up for work upwards of 70 days a year.

After the Andy Thompson reductio ad absurdum, in which the Liberal senator queered the deal for future layabouts by effectively retiring to Mexico whilst remaining on the payroll, the Upper House cracked down on absenteeism.

In theory, after racking up 21 no-shows in a single session, senators who can’t come up with a valid excuse can be docked $250 per day missed. In practice, penalties are easily avoided by pleading illness, pressing personal matters, etc., etc.

The first month of the fall sitting, Sept 27 to October 27, included twelve (12) days upon which senators were expected to file into the chamber and endure each other’s tedious bloviations, or at least be in attendance for Senate biz. Who could fault some of the usual suspects for making their usual, suspect excuses?

Herewith, early favourites for the Frank’s Laziest Senators of the 42nd Parliament, ranked by days missed so far:

12/12 (0% attendance)
Dennis Dawson (Martin)
Jacques Demers (Harper)
Sandra Lovelace Nicholas (Martin)
Josée Verner (Harper)

Senator Lovelace Nicholas, grand dame of the Lord Beaverbrook.

Senator Lovelace Nicholas, grand dame of the Lord Beaverbrook.

Three of this fall’s no-shows have the most excellent, complete and awful of excuses. Dawson’s being treated for throat cancer, Verner colorectal. Demers is recovering from his second major stroke, though was thankfully fit enough to be wheeled out for his induction into the Quebec Sports Hall of Fame in September.

As for the rarely-sighted and even more-rarely-missed New Brunswick senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, the chronically missing aboriginal woman, who has graced every Frank list of top money-for-nothing senators, was last spotted in the Udder Place June 21.

Frank can only assume the senator-in-absentia is in rude health and busily consulting with vaguely-identified ‘constituents’ from her suite at the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel in Fredericton.

It was multi-night stays here, readers will recall, and spotty documentation thereof, that in part first piqued the curiosity of Auditor General Michael Ferguson. He flagged $75,227 in the good senator’s expense claims, subsequently knocked down to $38,023 by special arbitrator Ian Binnie.

10/12 (16.7% attendance)
Nick Sibbeston (Crouton)

One might assume the loopy Métis senator, who retires next November to start drawing his $80,000+ pension, has begun easing himself into a life of publicly-funded torpor, if one wasn’t familiar with the egregious trougher’s record ever since Jean Crouton installed him in the Upper House in 1999.

Sibbeston’s long been a slacker nonpareil. In 2014 he missed more votes than any of his colleagues, ducking out on 51 out of 70, out-shirking even Sen. Patrick Brazeau, who missed 44, in part because he was barred from the chamber at the time.

Saint Nick was also the very last sitting senator caught with fingers in the expense account cookie jar to cough up what he owed.

Sibbeston got nailed for $26,924 in bogus expenses (marked down from an initial $50,102), among them numerous ill-explained stopovers in Edmonton, where his wife Karen happens to have family, a jaunt to Quebec City to, er, “cheer on” his son’s ice-sculpting team, and toots to Victoria to chit-chat with artist Robert Burke about his paintings depicting residential schools.

Sibbeston claimed he spoke to “hundreds of people” about Burke’s artwork, including former rez school survivors. But Binnie wasn’t buying and ruled the chinwags as “primarily personal.”

6/12 (50% attendance)
Lynn Beyak (Harper)
Joan Fraser (Crouton)
Daniel Lang (Harper)

Senator Fraser: Deputy doggin' it.

Senator Fraser: Deputy doggin’ it.

The senators who were halfway there. Senator Lang, I’m told, has been simply swamped keeping up with a busy calendar of defence-themed conferences like the Maritime Security Challenges beanfest in Victoria (also sighted there: fellow truant Colin Kenny) and deadheading in the north with royal rellies William and Kate. Fraser’s string of AWOLs might have gone unremarked upon were she not allegedly deputy government leader in the Senate. As for Beyak, er, who dat?

5/12 (58.3% attendance)
Colin Kenny (Trudeau I)

The sleazeball senator for Rideau is once again in a class by himself. Given the polymorphous and perverse improprieties for which the honourable horndog has been variously investigated, audited, probed and penalized in the past three years – the expense account fiddles, the alleged harassment of staff (sexual and garden-variety bullying), the skank-trolling on Ashley Madison, etc., it would be futile and likely unsanitary to speculate just how Col. Klink has been filling his personal days this fall.

4/12 (66.7% attendance)
Douglas Black (Harper)
Patrick Brazeau (Harper)
James Cowan (Martin)
Victor Oh (Harper)
Charlie Watt (Trudeau I)

A tip of the Frank cap to Senator Brazeau, who after his epic and determined struggle to regain his Upper House meal ticket, running a seemingly endless gauntlet of fraud, drunk driving and assault charges, managed to show up for work fully two thirds of the time. Fellow senator-of-former-interest Pam Wallin, in contrast, has not missed a single day (or per diem) this fall, and Mike Duffy has racked up but a single absence, Sept. 27.

3/12 (75% attendance)
Salma Ataullahjan (Harper)
Lillian Dyck (Martin)
Linda Frum (Harper)
Stephen Greene (Harper)
Frances Lankin (Trudeau II)
Pana Merchant (Crouton)
Carolyn Clifford-Olsen (Harper)

These little piggies stayed home (that’s enough absentee troughing!!–ed.)

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2 comments on “Frank Roll Call: The Twelve Days of Senate Shiftlessness
  1. Mikeonthebike says:

    I would suggest a total over haul of the Senate. Instead of appointments have the whole senate start with a proportional representation. Have all parties forward Senate candidates by Senate areas . And divide the senate by proportion of votes each party received. For example in many cases a party may receive less than a majority of votes in each House riding but a high proportion of votes over all. So if a party receives 30% of popular votes across the country have them be appointed to 30% of Senate Seats. Have the parties assign a person to newly created Senate areas. For example larger population areas may have more senators. But there could also be Senators from smaller areas. The North or small prairie areas. Senators would represent the people and not a party . But hey nothing in this for the suits.

  2. tyrone says:

    it is not easy to show up for a part time job…especially if it requires sober second thought.

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