‘This has to stop,’ senator says as Red Chamber costs balloon by 70%

The cost to run the Senate of Canada has soared by roughly 70 per cent in the seven years since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was first elected — an increase some say is unacceptable, given that the number of senators has remained static over the same period. Senate’s standing committee on internal economy, budgets and administration (CIBA), the body of senators that governs the upper house, adopted a budget on Thursday that will cost Canadian taxpayers $126.7 million in the 2023-24 fiscal year.In 2015-16, the last year before Trudeau’s reforms to the Red Chamber, Senate expenditures were $74.5 million. That substantial increase has prompted some senators to demand an “efficiency review” of all Senate spending to rein in costs at a time when the economy is teetering on the edge of a recession.All senators on hand for the budget debate agreed the Senate should find ways to do things at a lower cost.Canadian Senators Group (CSG) Sen. Scott Tannas, the chair of the Senate’s estimates subcommittee, is also recommending a temporary hiring freeze. Canadian Senators Group (CSG) Sen. Scott Tannas recommends a temporary freezing freeze. (Hallie Cotnam/CBC) The number of bureaucrats working in the Red Chamber has gone up more than 30 per cent in just five years. Tannas said he’s “concerned” by that. In 2017, the Senate had 372 full-time equivalents (FTEs) — government jargon for full-time workers. The head count is now up to 493 positions.The number of sitting senators has been well below the chamber’s 105-seat capacity for years because the Liberal government has been slow to appoint new people.The spike in Senate costs has also outpaced the growth in expenses at the House of Commons. The elected body has seen its costs increase by about 40 per cent over the same seven-year time period, according to figures published in the public accounts. Tory senator ‘really disturbed’ by cost increases Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett, a member of CIBA, blasted the mounting costs during the budget debate, saying he’s “really disturbed” by what he sees as a lackadaisical approach to spending by other senators and some Senate bureaucrats. “Are Canadians getting 70 per cent more out of the Senate than they did in 2016?” ? Plett asked. “I was here in 2016 and I’m here now, and I don’t think we’re getting 70 per cent more.” The increase in costs has been driven largely by the Senate administration — the public servants attached to the upper house. The $126.7 million for next fiscal year represents an increase of four per cent over last year, but senators’ office budgets — which are used to pay political staff expenses and other costs — will rise only by 0.7 per cent, Plett said. Conservative Sen. Don Plett said Senate expenses need to be reinstated in. (Chris Rands/CBC)The Senate administration’s costs, meanwhile, are up 8.6 per cent year over year — a figure that is higher than inflation, which clocked in at about 5.3 per cent in October.” We need to go through the budget line by line. We are not getting value for our money,” Plett told the budget debate. “Colleagues, this has to stop.”The Tory senator said that with Canada facing tough economic times, the Senate needs to “start leading by example” and get its fiscal house in order. seven years, has led by example,” Plett said, adding that few private businesses would be allowed to increase their costs so dramatically in such a short period of time without a reckoning. the seven-year increase is actually lower than the sum he cited because some of money allocated in past years went unspent. Plett’s numbers are drawn from the federal government’s supplementary estimates. Korn offered an explanation for the increase in costs.”The 2023-24 budget is based on the principles of maintaining high-quality service to senators and sound management of public funds in the context of the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery,” Korn said. “It includes inflation, economic salary increases, increase in cost, investments in technology and new initiatives.” She said new employees were added to “address specific initiatives” and because of the “move to the new Senate of Canada Building.” She also cited an increase in unnamed “activities and volumes” and “legislative requirements.” bureaucrats who serve senators and their political staff. Plett said that was not his intention. Tony Dean, a Trudeau-appointed senator who previously served as Ontario’s most senior civil servant, said senators have to be “cautious” about criticizing the budget because it could be seen as “sending the wrong signals to people who support us in this organization.” Another Trudeau appointee, Sen. Hassan Yussuff, the former president of the Canadian Labor Congress, said the Senate is “not a business” and it can’t adhere to corporate spending choices.”I think we need to differentiate how we manage an institution that’s responsible for doing a different thing than businesses,” he said. “The public … needs to appreciate the hard work we do on their behalf,” he said. “The taxpayers who are paying for it should have an understanding that what we’re doing here is of value to them.”New Brunswick CSG Sen. Jim Quinn, another Trudeau pick for the upper house, suggested at one point during the budget debate that the committee move “in camera” — behind closed doors — to discuss budget issues in secret without the public and press on hand. to that,” Plett shot back, adding Canadians should know what the Senate does with their money. Lucie Moncion, the chair of CIBA, defended some of the cost increases, saying the Senate is doing more now than it did seven years ago. The upper house, for example, now broadcasts its proceedings on television and online, which has added to the budget and employee count, she said. “Over the last five years, there have been major changes that have occurred,” Moncion said. At the same time, the Senate has been able to offload some expenses that it once had to pay. Since 2015, the Senate has had much lower security expenses thanks to the creation of the Parliamentary Protective Service, which merged the once-separate House of Commons and Senate security branches into one Parliament Hill-wide security service under the RCMP’s command. That merger moved most of the security-related expenses off the Senate’s books.

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