Top Tory senator asks that attendance rules be reviewed

The government leader in the Senate has asked the upper chamber's Internal Economy Committee to look into rules surrounding attendance, days after one of her own lashed out at a journalist for a story showing he had the poorest attendance in this session of Parliament.
Marjory LeBreton, Government Leader in the Senate, has asked that attendance rules be reviewed in the wake of innappropriate behaviour by Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau, who attacked a reporter on Twitter who reported he had the worst attendance in the upper chamber. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The government leader in the Senate has asked the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration for a review of the rules about attendance in the upper chamber, days after Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau lashed out at a journalist who revealed he had the poorest attendance record for this session of Parliament.

In an interview airing on CBC Radio's The House, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton told host Evan Solomon she has asked the standing committee also known as the Internal Economy Committee to look into the number of days senators are allowed to miss and whether they ought to justify their absence, in light of what she called the "inappropriate" behaviour displayed by Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau.

"I'm not going to gild the lily here," said LeBreton.

"It is unfortunate. It doesn't help the Senate."

Not only did Brazeau make sexist remarks to a journalist for reporting on his poor attendance which showed that he missed 25 per cent of the 72 sittings between June 2011 and April 2012, but as LeBreton told Solomon he also did not show up for the last week of sitting in the Senate missing important votes on various government bills including Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill.

LeBreton told Solomon "I've got all the attendance sitting right in front of me on my desk, and Senator Brazeau was not there."

By the end of April 2012, the senator from Quebec was four days away from being fined.

Attendance records for May and June have not been made public yet but Brazeau hasn't just been missing from the Senate floor.

Between June 2011 and April 2012, he also missed 65 per cent of meetings at the aboriginal peoples committee on which he sits. He was also away for 31 per cent of the meetings of the human rights committee, where he is deputy chair.

Though LeBreton refused to comment on the circumstances surrounding Brazeau's absence in the Senate, she did say now that the Senate has been adjourned until September, "whatever personal problems are troubling Senator Brazeau, hopefully he deals with them over the summer."

Although Brazeau did issue a written apology, the senator from Quebec never did say why he missed so many days of work saying only it had to do with "personal issues."

But LeBreton told Solomon she has asked the Chair of the Internal Economy Committee to review the rules.

"And I've actually suggested that to the Chair of the Internal Economy, that it's just not enough to say personal circumstances, there should be reasons given," said the Conservative leader in the Senate.

As for the alloted 21 days of absence in each parliamentary session, LeBreton told Solomon she thought it might be "a little generous."

"I don't believe since I've been named to the Senate, I've missed 21 days total ever, for the whole number of years I've been here," said LeBreton who was nominated to the Senate in 1993 by former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced a senate reform bill last June, the government did not make it a priority bill and as such has yet to become law.

Harper will have to appoint at least another four senators in the coming months, with three Conservatives and one Liberal seeing their terms expire before the end of 2012.

The NDP supports abolishing the Senate.

With files from The Canadian Press