In the long and storied history of Canadian politics, has there been anything – anything at all – as consistently disgusting and repellant and loathsome as the Canadian Senate? Has there been any political institution that has been so deserving of being dragged into the public square, and executed for all to see? Ask yourself: is there?
No. No, there isn’t.
And rest assured, Senators, as you slouch in the Air Canada lounge, delicately clutching the Hill Times or some other paper in your manicured digits, waiting to board a flight back to the patch of dirt you claim to “represent” – Canadians intensely despise the institution to which you belong. And, in large measure, Canadians despise many of you, too.
Bob Fife’s revelation that not a few of you have had your snouts wedged in the Parliamentary expense trough is, really, not news. All of us had been expecting that particular blister to burst for, say, the past 148 years. Still, Fife’s report that at least 40 of you have received letters from Auditor General Michael Ferguson about “questionable expense claims” – with many more such letters about to be popped in the mail – well, wow. Fife’s reporting, always among the best on the Hill, suggested that the Senate – already writhing in the feral ooze at the bottom of some primordial pit – was about to slither downward to uncharted depths.
As CTV’s Fife reported: “Sources said former Liberal senator Rose-Marie Losier-Cool has been asked to account for about $100,000. When CTV News contacted her by phone, she refused to comment and hung up.”
Tidbits like these enrage average Canadians, to be sure. But, take heart, enraged Canadians: the Senate will now indeed be killed off, and justly so. And it will be killed off not by us, but by the Senators themselves.
The senatorial parade of sleaze and shame can’t be captured in a single opinion column – it would take up too many words. But some notables merit quick mention: Senate Mike Duffy, of course, commencing trial this week on a multiplicity of charges. Senator Pamela Wallin and Senator Patrick Brazeau and departed Senator Mac Harb, all currently facing charges and/or police investigations. Ex-Senator Raymond Lavigne, convicted of fraud and breach of trust. Former Senator Michel Cogger, whose misadventures occupied the legal system for a decade. Senator Eric Berntson, resigned, who was sentenced to a year in prison for illegally diverting government allowances. The departed Andrew Thompson, who lived in Mexico, but who always made certain to show up in the Senate often enough to draw a salary. And so on and so on.
Above all of these, however, stands Senator Nancy Ruth Rowell Jackman. That’s the name she was born with, you see, but she prefers that we call her “Nancy Ruth.” Paul Martin appointed her more than a decade ago, but she was a Conservative.
She dropped the Jackman part, which perhaps makes it easier to forget that her brother is Hal Jackman, formerly bagman-in-chief for the Ontario PC Party. Or that her father was Harry Jackman, another uber-rich Conservative from Toronto who dabbled in politics. They were rich, rich, rich.
And rich Nancy Ruth Rowell Jackman is and was. She made a couple dilettantish runs for the Ontario Conservatives in the Nineties. On one occasion, the provincial Liberals produced a cheeky flyer about her, and it contained some gems – as well as some of her bon mots, neatly illustrating her worldview.
Thus, we learned that she grew up in a 9,000-square-foot mansion, with a cook, a maid, a nanny, a seamstress and even someone to do the laundry. One time, she went into town to run some errands, and came back with a shiny new Mercedes. Private girls’ school Branksome Hall behind her, she started thinking about university. “I guess it was arrogance,” Nancy allowed, “but I wasn’t really aware that going to university had anything to do with school marks.”
Living on her family’s millions didn’t bother. “It was my due,” said she.
This week, of course, Nancy Ruth Rowell Jackman rocketed into the public consciousness when asked about the Auditor General’s question to her: namely, why not eat free airline food when it is offered? Why expense something else?
Sniffed the Senator, in a quote that will live forever in infamy: “Well, those (airline) breakfasts are pretty awful. If you want ice-cold Camembert with broken crackers, have it.”
The AG’s auditors, she added, don’t “understand anything of what it’s like to fly around the world to get here to Ottawa.”
Senator Nancy Ruth Rowell Jackman, a weary nation thanks you. With your arrogance, with your appalling condescension and contempt, you have done more to hasten the Senate’s demise than anyone before you.
That takes some doing, “Nancy Ruth,” but you did it. Congratulations.