Senate costs jumped 70% in seven years
In 2023-2024, the Canadian Senate will cost approximately $123 million.
The cost of the Canadian Senate has jumped 70% since Justin Trudeau's Liberals came to power in 2015. This increase is described as unacceptable by some since the number of senators has not increased during this period. A sharp increase in the number of hires and special projects, however, could explain part of this growth.
The Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and x27;administration (CSRBA) – the group of senators that manages the Upper House – on Thursday passed a budget that stands at $126.7 million for the 2023-2024 fiscal year.
In 2015-2016, that is to say the last fiscal year before the reforms adopted by the Trudeau government, this budget amounted to 74.5 million.
This substantial increase has prompted some senators to call for an “efficiency review” of all Senate spending to contain costs at a time when the national economy is flirting with recession.
All senators present during the budget debate agreed that the Senate must find a way to operate at a lower cost.
Senator Scott Tannas, member of the Senators Group Canadians and chairman of the Senate estimates subcommittee, also recommends a temporary hiring freeze.
The number of employees in the Upper House has thus jumped by more than 30 % over the last five years. Mr. Tannas says he is worried about this situation.
In 2017, the Senate had the equivalent of 372 full-time employees. This number has now risen to 493.
The number of sitting senators is well below the maximum number of seats in the Upper House of 105, since the Liberal government does not x27;has not filled all vacancies.
Cost growth in the Senate has also been faster than on the House of Commons side. Elected officials have seen their spending increase by around 40% over the same seven-year period, according to public data.
Conservative Senate Leader Don Plett, who is a member of CSBRA, strongly criticized rising costs during the budget debate, saying he was very troubled by what he sees as an apathetic approach to expenses from other Senators and some Upper House bureaucrats.
“Are Canadians getting 70% more stuff from the Senate compared to 2016? I was there in 2016, I'm here now and I don't think we're doing 70% more.
—Don Plett, Senate Conservative Leader
This increase in costs is largely fueled by the administration of the Senate, that is, civil servants attached to the Upper House.
The $126.7 million projected for the next fiscal year represents a 4% increase from the previous fiscal year, but the budgets for senators' offices, which are used to pay the expenses of political staff and other costs, will increase by only 0.7%, Mr. Plett said.
Senate administration costs will increase by 8.6% in a year, a rate that exceeds inflation, which reached 5.3% last October.
The administration must adopt a slimming diet. We have to do the budget review line by line. We're not getting enough bang for our buck, Plett said again during the budget debate. Colleagues, this needs to stop.
Alison Korn, a spokeswoman for the Internal Economy Committee, questioned the numbers put forward by Senator Plett by saying rather than The increase over the last seven years is actually lower than the sum mentioned since part of the allocated money has not been spent.
The amounts given by Senator Plett are part of government estimates.
Ms. Korn also offered an explanation for the rising costs: according to her, the 2023-2024 budget is based on the principles of maintaining high quality service for Senators and sound stewardship of public funds in the context of the pandemic and post-pandemic recovery.
This also includes inflation, salary increases, cost increases, investments in technological means as well as new projects.
Also according to Ms. Korn, new employees are hired to tackle specific issues and due to the move to the new Senate building. She also referred to an increase in the number of activities and legislative requirements without giving further details.
Mr. Plett's comments drew a strong backlash from senators appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who indicated that criticism of budget increases could be seen as an attack on public servants who work for senators as well as& #x27;towards political employees.
Mr. Plett argues that was not his intention.
Independent Sen. Tony Dean, appointed by Mr. Trudeau and who previously worked as the head of Ontario's public service, said senators should be careful in criticizing the budget since it could be seen as an affront. send the wrong signals to the people who support us in this organization.
Another senator appointed by the current Prime Minister, Hassan Yussuff, a former president of the Canadian Labor Congress, claimed that the Senate is not a business and does not have to follow rules and regulations. spending decisions of the private sector.
I believe we need to distinguish between how we run a responsible institution and how a business operates, he said.
“The public […] needs to be aware of the work we do on their behalf. The taxpayers who pay for this should understand that what we are doing here is important to them. »
— Hassan Yussuff, Senator appointed by Justin Trudeau
New Brunswick Senator Jim Quinn, also appointed by Mr. Trudeau, suggested at some point during the budget debate that the committee will meet behind closed doors to continue discussions.
I oppose it, Mr. Plett immediately retorted before adding that Canadians should know what the Senate is doing with their money.
Senator Lucie Moncion, head of the Internal Economy Committee, defended some of the hikes by arguing that the Senate is doing more now than it was seven years ago.
The Upper House, for example, now broadcasts its proceedings on television and online, which has resulted in additional costs and new hiring, she said.
Over the past five years, several major changes have taken place, Ms. Moncion said.
At the same time, the Senate was able to transfer certain expenses that it once had to take in charge.
Since 2015, Senate security spending has been greatly reduced due to the creation of the Parliamentary Protective Service, which merged the Commons Security Services and of the Senate under the command of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
With information from John Paul Tasker, CBC
With information from CBC News