Senate reform is the most pressing federal issue on the minds of Prince Albert constituents, according to MP Randy Hoback.
© Submitted photo
Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback
Fresh from recent gall bladder surgery, Hoback took a few minutes to talk to the Herald about the prorogation of Parliament, ongoing Senate controversies and other issues.
“On the federal side of things, it’s been fairly quiet,” Hoback said. “The Senate is the big issue that people are asking me about when I go around talking to people.
“First of all, they want to know why we can’t fire them, and you explain to them that it’s in the Constitution. You can’t fire a senator … Once you explain that to them, then they want to make sure that there’s been proper processes put in place so that it doesn’t happen again, and the Senate has made changes to their expenses and the reporting system.
“That has all happened since the spring, and the Senate will now go through an entire audit this fall, so every Senator’s going to be audited. So we’ll get a picture of just how bad the problem is.”
The Conservative government previously put forward legislation to reform the Senate in 2006 and 2011.
The first attempt died in the Senate, which at the time was dominated by Liberals who insisted on longer term lengths and the incorporation of a constitutional change that would have required approval from the provinces.
With the provinces cool to reform proposals, the Harper government has asked the Supreme Court to rule on potential options for Senate reform, including outright abolition of the chamber.
“The Senate has to be reformed,” Hoback said bluntly. “It cannot stay in the format it’s in.
“For example, elected senators are just a basic necessity that should be here in the Senate. Putting term limits in place is also fairly important … The way the Senate’s configured and the way it operates, these senators have been involved in their scandal, basically they’re there until they’re 75.
“Nobody can fire them. Nobody can remove them. It’s the way it is, and it’s not appropriate.”
The relationship between the Conservative government and the Senate has come under fire from opposition parties in recent months following revelations of improper expenses by two Conservative-appointed senators, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy.
The Senate has to be reformed. It cannot stay in the format it’s in. MP Randy Hoback
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced earlier this week that he is seeking to prorogue Parliament until October after the throne speech. Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair accused the Conservatives of hiding from questions surrounding the Senate expenses scandal.
Hoback in turn accused the opposition of “playing politics” and “opposing to oppose.”
He maintained that preparations for a new cabinet -- including a change in ministers and staff -- constituted the main reason behind the prorogation request.
“You get new staff that need to learn their jobs, you get cabinet ministers that are learning their jobs and then you get new parliamentary secretaries will probably be named in the next few weeks,” Hoback said.
“They have to learn their jobs and their staff have to learn it, and then they re-establish all the committees, so they have to get a sense of who the committee chairs are going to be and who’s going to sit on what committee. So it’s a big process to readjust things to the reset button that we’ve hit.”
He noted that Parliament has been prorogued more than 100 times in Canadian history.
Until Parliament resumes, Hoback intends to carry on largely as normal, shifting between Ottawa and Prince Albert to handle federal duties and meet with constituents.
One recent development, the expansion of the Prince Albert riding’s boundaries, has met with the MP’s approval following the release of a report by the 2012 Federal Election Boundaries Commission of Saskatchewan.
Hoback previously expressed concerns about the proposed boundary changes, but has since come around following modifications that retained a mixed rural-urban riding.
“It actually is a good example of what a rural-urban riding should look like,” he said. “You’ve got a major centre like Prince Albert with the urban centres that actually do their shopping in Prince Albert being represented by the same person.”
He added, “I look forward to representing the new constituents that come by after the next federal election.”