As he recalled the Liberal party hold on Prince Albert, Sask., until he turned it into a Tory fiefdom in 1953, John Diefenbaker loved to tell a Liberal skullduggery story.
It seems there were two party men competing for the Liberal nomination in a safe Prince Albert Laurier Liberal seat back in the day when prairie voters elected Liberals other than Ralph Goodale.
A deal was struck. One would run for the House of Commons and once there, make sure his rival received a secure Senate seat.
The election was held, the candidate won as expected and as MP quickly began lobbying to be appointed to the safe for-life Senate seat. He was.
Dief would chortle at the story, true or embellished.
Thirty-four years after his death, he likely would chortle again at the Senate story unfolding this summer — expense scandals, unseemly self-indulgence and police investigations. Much as he tried to stack it with his own people, Diefenbaker always thought of the Senate as a place where his Bay Street enemies plotted against him.
These days, it is less Bay Street barons (thankfully, Conrad Black is in the House of Lords in London and not the Canadian Senate) but folks as common as a Prince Edward Islander, a West Quebec aboriginal, a Lebanese immigrant to Ottawa and a hometown lass from Wadena, Sask., who are caught in the web of expenses scandals.
Tens of thousands of inappropriate expenses will be paid back and politicians of all parties are aghast that senators would play so fast and loose with public dollars.
Why NDP leader Thomas Mulcair even is roaming the nation calling for the abolition of the Senate. It is a bad idea but he apparently is outraged at expense abuses.
But as the nation (or at least the declining minority that still follows the news) roils in a summer of Senate scandal, perhaps we should reintroduce ourselves to some historic senatorial fixtures.
Keith Davey, a Pearson and Trudeau-era political organizing magician, was appointed to the Senate to be a fulltime election organizer.
Marjory LeBreton, still a senator, was appointed by Brian Mulroney in 1993 for service to the party and also to help rebuild the party — a task she did well enough to earn Stephen Harper’s gratitude and a place in his cabinet.
David Smith, a canny political organizer, was sent to the Senate by Jean Chrétien in 2002 to act as a protected fundraiser and organizer for the Liberal party.
Since the beginning of Canada, the Senate has been a comfortable retirement home for political organizers who used their perch and taxpayer dollars to promote partisan interests.
So the current political outrage over Senate spending abuses on partisan activities seems a bit rich.
The more egregious issue these days is senators making believe they live somewhere that they don’t in order to claim a taxpayer benefit, using taxpayer dollars to cover costs to business meetings or double billing for money they already have been paid by speech sponsors.
That is the crux of the current scandal.
The fact that senators are partisan and use their sinecure for party reasons should not surprise anyone, at least anyone with at least a bit of Canadian history in their bones.
That should include Mr. Mulcair.