Sunday, March 22, 2009

Well, That's Money Well Spent...

Raymond Lavigne draws fat paycheck to stay home

Being suspended from the Canadian Senate has proven to be quite lucrative for formerly Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne.

Over the last two years Lavigne, who was expelled from the Liberal caucus over accusations of using Senate resources for personal gain and later placed on a pseudo-suspension after being charged by the RCMP, has collected his his total salary of $130,400 a year.

The charges stem from an incident in which Lavigne was accused of using a Senate staffer to cut down trees on his property in Lakefield, Quebec.

Since then Lavigne has been under an informal suspension. He was asked to not report for work in the Senate. His absences have been credited as "public business" (which one presumes involves mowing his own damned lawn), and as such is attendance record in the Senate is actually being treated as perfect.

If the proper penalty for his absence were applied a penalty of $250 per day would have been applied after 21 days of absence. (Interestingly, if non-sitting days were counted, a full year's absence would still leave Lavigne collecting nearly $40,000 per annum.)

"This guy is a disgrace," said Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Kevin Gaudet. "[He] is a poster child of the need for elected senators and accountability in politics."

Liberal Senataor Joan Fraser disagrees. "In this country you are presumed innocent until proven otherwise," she explains, objecting that it wouldn't have been fair to deny pay to a Senator not yet convicted of a criminal offence.

What Fraser is seemingly forgetting is that a June 2006 Senate committee determined that Lavigne had, indeed, misused Senate resources, and ordered him to repay $23,666. The committee itself referred the matter to the RCMP for further investigation.

If the Senate was able to determine that evidence was sufficient enough to order Lavigne to repay the funds it doesn't take a significant leap of the imagination to consider that Lavigne should have been suspended outright for his actions and denied his pay.

Raymond Lavigne should have been outright suspended from the Senate when the RCMP pressed crominal charges against him. If the rules regarding the suspension of Senators was prohibitive, as Conservative Senator Consiglio Di Nino suggests, then these rules are simply another example of the reform so desperately needed in the upper chamber.

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