CHARLOTTETOWN – Former prime minister Paul Martin says the expenses scandal that has rocked Canada’s Senate is damaging to government and the only solution is to lay the facts bare.
© Kent Kallberg photo
Paul Martin will receive the Confederation Centre of the Arts’ Symons Medal and give the 11th National Symons Lecture on the State of Canadian Confederation on Thursday in Charlottetown.
During a visit to Prince Edward Island Thursday, Martin sat down with The Guardian for an interview.
He did not comment directly on the Island’s embattled Senator Mike Duffy, who is at the centre of the expenses controversy, but did say the scandal is destructive not only to the Senate but also to the “institution of the government.”
“That’s unfortunate because most senators are very hardworking and they do really good work. Libbe Hubley, Catherine Callbeck — they do tremendous work,” Martin said, referring to two of P.E.I.’s three Liberal Senators.
“It is unfortunate that an institution of government is being dragged into the muck the way that it is.”
Martin was at the helm when another national scandal — the sponsorship scandal — was taking a political toll on himself as prime minister and his governing Liberal party.
When faced with questions of contracts improperly awarded to Liberal-friendly advertising firms by the auditor general in 2004, Martin called a public inquiry. He believes Harper should likewise let the public in.
“Given what’s going on, I don’t think this is the time for camouflage or for holding back,” Martin said.
“I think Canadians are entitled to know what’s going on. I don’t see any way, in fact, you’re going to re-establish any respect for the Senate is if the facts are not put on the table.”
He stressed his firm belief in the importance of the Senate in Canada’s parliamentary system, adding that Islanders need not feel embarrassed by the controversy surrounding Duffy.
“Most of the senators who have been appointed from Prince Edward Island have done an outstanding job,” Martin said. “I think that Prince Edward Island can be very proud of the senators that they have sent, in most cases.”
Duffy’s travel and living expenses are currently the subject of an RCMP investigation, as is a transaction that saw Harper’s former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, hand Duffy a $90,000 cheque to pay for his inappropriately claimed expenses.