I was busy last week and did not see Peter Mansbridge interview Pamela Wallin. No one I’ve asked watched the show either which may say something about The National and the diminished size of its audience. Fortunately, in this day and age, everything is available, including a complete transcript.
I watched a video of the 36-minute interview, read the transcript and I must say that I still don’t fully understand Wallin’s problem. It’s not her residency, that’s all been approved. It’s not charging per diems for Senate work when she’s on holiday as Mike Duffy has allegedly done. Wallin claims she doesn’t even put in expense claims for entertainment. Her problem comes from flying to Halifax or Edmonton or Toronto to deliver a speech or attend a board meeting, then heading home to Saskatchewan and putting in expense claims for all the flights involved. “So money is not in my pocket, the money is in the pocket of the airlines.” Wallin says she and her staff got onto this first before others raised the issue and have been working “night and day” since to correct it. In so doing, she’s already repaid $38,000.
For that sizeable group of expenses, I presume she concluded that those flights were not Senate business and should not have been claimed. “Those repayments I made instantly because it was clear that they were mistakes.” Even giving a generous allowance for a per flight cost of $2,000, that’s nineteen flights about which she made a mistake. That’s a lot of erroneous assumptions.
Wallin declares there was nothing in this for her nor does she feel her actions came from a sense of entitlement. But there was something in it for her. Someone else, in this case the Senate, was paying for her flights even though they weren’t for Senate business. “I don’t think I’m taking advantage or bilking the system. Everybody who’s ever filled in an expense claim in their office knows how frustrating it is. how difficult it is and it sort of piles up.” Mike Duffy fell back on a similar argument about how in the confusion of it all he made mistakes.
Wallin, like everyone else, has been waiting for the outside auditor’s report from Deloitte. Begun last November, we’re all still waiting. Auditors can produce annual reports on multinationals with billions in revenue in far less time. Why is one individual’s expenses so complicated?
We’re now stuck with two former journalists – Duffy and Wallin – wreaking damage on an already beleaguered institution. It’s long past time to abolish the Senate. Until that happens, please, no more journalists in the Red Chamber. They seem able to ask questions but not answer them.