During the election campaign my NDP opponent, Michael Hunter, seized every opportunity available to demand more accountability from Members of Parliament. He?s right.
Canadians are justifiably cynical about politicians. We need to take more stringent measures to ensure MPs are held accountable for their job performance and that they take responsibility for their actions and decisions as our elected representatives and as citizens ? just like every other Canadian.
Given the importance Mr. Hunter places on this issue, he?s been strangely silent however, on the need to hold former MP Svend Robinson accountable for his actions. Not once did I hear him mention the shameful charade to which his most notorious NDP colleague is subjecting our country.
Mr. Robinson admitted on live television last April that after shopping around for a ring for his gay partner, he ?snapped? and stole one ? a ring we now know was worth $64,000. Most any other Canadian could have expected to be charged with theft almost immediately. Yet, for some reason, investigators had to ponder whether to even charge the NDP MP for almost three months!
When the charge of theft was finally laid early this month, Mr. Robinson, who had ceased being an MP on June 28th, wasn?t available to appear in court to hear the charges because he was in the midst of a taxpayer-funded trip to Scotland for an international summit!
It was NDP Leader Jack Layton that approved Mr. Robinson?s attendance at the summit, which cost taxpayers $5,500. Furthermore, Mr. Layton defended the trip stating it was an ?honour for Canada? to have Mr. Robinson, who was no longer an MP and had admitted to stealing, represent us at the event! Mr. Hunter?s remarks about MP accountability certainly seem at odds with statements made by his boss.
Mr. Hunter has been particularly vocal about MP attendance in the House of Commons. And while I firmly agree that showing up for work is a critical aspect of my job (my own attendance was over 90% in the last Parliament), Mr. Hunter and the NDP appear to be operating under some misguided definition of accountability. What has the NDP done to hold Mr. Robinson accountable for his admitted criminal act? They sent him on an international trip!
Mr. Robinson admitted to committing a crime. He had the decency to resign and not seek re-election. I can accept that after 25 years as an NDP MP, Mr. Robinson was quite popular within his party. I can even accept that there is a degree of sympathy for him among his supporters. However, I cannot accept that the NDP chose to use taxpayers? money to reward him while he is facing criminal prosecution.
Incidentally, it was very convenient for Mr. Robinson, and for Mr. Layton and the NDP, that the Scotland trip meant he was out of the country and unavailable to answer questions from the media when he was finally charged.
So far, the allowances afforded to Mr. Robinson starkly contrast the consequences that the average Canadian would face for a similar act. Is it any wonder that Canadians are cynical about government and politicians?