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Senate’s secretive committee overseeing expenses to be televised for 1st time

The Senate’s secretive committee responsible for managing the Red Chamber’s financial and administrative affairs, including Senator’s expenses, is about to start televising its meetings for the first time.

The decision by the Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration to show their inner-workings to the public was made during a meeting on Thursday.

Saskatchewan Conservative Senator Denise Batters asked the committee to vote in favour of a motion that would result in televised proceedings.

“I just think it’s archaic to have this committee broadcast in audio only. I think there should be video,” Batters told the committee Thursday.

In recent years, the committee began broadcasting its meetings in audio only, despite other Senate committees have been televised for at least a decade.

Internal Economy, as it’s colloquially known, was thrust into the spotlight during the Senate expense scandal in 2013.

At that time, the committee wasn’t even able to offer it’s proceedings on an audio webcast, despite it’s doors being open to journalists covering the testimony from Senators regarding their expense claims.

At present, the Senate can only televise four committees at a time on the upper chamber’s website.

‘Talking taxi chits with Canadians’

David Tkachuk, a Conservative Senator from Saskatchewan who was the former chair of the committee in the lead up to the Senate expenses scandal, told the committee he didn’t care whether Internal Economy was televised.

“If I was going to rank them, this would be on the lower end of my committee list, next to all the other public issue committees, rather than discussing taxi chits with the people of Canada,” Tkachuk told the committee Thursday.

Nova Scotia Liberal Senator Jane Cordy quipped that televising Internal Economy would just be like all the other Senate committees except, “It’s just the faces that go with the audio that might not look so good at eight in the morning, she said.”

Tkachuk in good humour added, “They could take slides or something, and run slides while we talk.”

Travel and residency claims

It was travel expenses, along with residency claims, that were at the heart of the Senate expenses scandal that saw Senators Pamela Wallin, Mike Duffy and Patrick Brazeau suspended without pay.

Wallin’s expenses had been investigated by the RCMP, which decided not to lay charges.

Duffy was charged with 31 offences relating to his expenses, but he was acquitted on all charges.

Charges of fraud and breach of trust against Brazeau were withdrawn by the Crown in July, clearing the way for the Quebec senator to return to work.

Opening the Senate doors

Aside from overseeing expenses and dealing with residency claims, the Internal Economy committee takes care of the most delicate and sensitive issues regarding how the Senate is run and how senators conduct their affairs.

The committee can now be watched on the Senate’s website and seen on CPAC. However it is expected to hold in-camera meetings when legal, security or personnel issues need to be discussed.

Ontario Liberal Senator Jim Munson, a former television reporter, lauded the move, saying ”It may not be the most exciting programming, but televising Internal Economy will open another door for Canadians to see how the Senate works.”

CBC | Politics News