COLUMN: Honour system has its failings

The recent audit of senators' expenses begs the question, is the system to blame, or the politicians who take advantage?

Years ago, a friend was telling me about a work-related injury, and that the government job allowed for up to three months paid leave recovery time.

“How long do you think you’ll be off?” I sympathized.

Her answer likely wouldn’t surprise you, as it did me.

“You’re taking all three months?” I asked naively.

“Who wouldn’t,” her partner responded matter-of-factly.

Fair question, I guess. Who wouldn’t take anything and everything allowable under the rules of the day?


I was reminded of this conversation when talking to the editor of another community newspaper last week about the allegations against senators accused of misspending funds, in particular the claims from auditor general Michael Ferguson in a report that former South Surrey senator Gerry St. Germain had spent public money bringing Senate staff to his anniversary celebration at Hazelmere Golf Course.

(St. Germain, it should be noted, disputes any suggestion of impropriety, and seems confident further investigation will clear his good name.)

The other editor – noting the accusations against former senator Mike Duffy currently on trial in Ottawa – suggested the rules are to blame.

But I can’t buy that.

While the rules of the Senate certainly seem open to individuals using them for personal benefit – if they so desire – I wonder how anyone could take advantage of them.

My fellow editor then noted that politicians have no monopoly on bellying up to the trough. We’d both been to political, community and industry events, where journalists bellied up to the bar as much as any other group.

Free food and drinks? How about a swag bag? Journalistic elbows out!

But surely there’s a difference between the niceties of networking, and taking advantage of a situation.

The Senate may have too few rules in place to weed out those who are there for personal gain, but shouldn’t these political appointees respond in kind to the honour to which they’ve been appointed – exemplifying honour?

Clearly, this ‘honour system’ has its failings, whether among elected officials and appointees looking for a handout, journalists looking out for number one and employees seeking to take advantage of a sick day.

But this doesn’t have to mean the system is to blame, does it?

I have to believe that most of us conduct ourselves with integrity.

Any other explanation leaves me hopeless.

I’ve tried to instill honesty in my children, yet I have concern that if they act virtuously, they’ll risk being left behind.

We’ve all been told that cheaters never prosper, an axiom that ultimately fails when put to the test.

Assuming the Senate scandal ends with some sort of determination that the rules are indeed to blame – not the individual senators and the political leaders who appointed them – what are we to tell our children?

The only saving grace is that while all eyes should be on the red chamber right now, they’re not. Even those who make the effort to vote seem to have relegated it less important than the other news that dominates national headlines.

But in answer to the earlier rhetorical question about who wouldn’t take the full three months of sick time, regardless of sickness, I can tell my children that I wouldn’t.

I just hope I’m not alone.

Lance Peverley is the editor of Peace Arch News.

Just Posted

Federal NDP may support B.C. with major projects, Carole James says

SkyTrain Surrey extension, Massey Tunnel need Ottawa’s help

Player-of-year Seumanutafa leads UBC to women’s rugby title

Semiahmoo grads help Thunderbirds to first-ever Canada West rugby title

Diwali in Surrey: ‘Festival of light’ celebrations at several halls, a library, other venues

This year Diwali is on Sunday, Oct. 27, but Surrey-area events are held over a two-week period

People’s Party of Canada not finished, defeated Surrey candidate says

Surrey’s five PPC candidates combined received 4,213 votes

Owner of now-closed South Surrey seafood store pleads guilty to illegally importing fish into U.S.

‘We would not put customer health and safety at risk’: Seven Seas Fish

Scheer says Canada more divided than ever, as NDP and Bloc hold cards close

While Liberals were shut out of two key prairie provinces, they took two-thirds of the seats in Ontario

Saanich Gulf-Islands’s Elizabeth May coy about leadership plans

The federal Green party leader talks possibility of running as MP without being leader

Estheticians can’t be forced to wax male genitals, B.C. tribunal rules

Langley transgender woman Jessica Yaniv was ordered to pay three salon owners $2,000 each

Two youth arrested in UBC carjacking at gunpoint, after being spotted in stolen Kia

‘A great deal of credit is due the alert person who called us,’ said North Vancouver Sgt. Peter DeVries

People’s Party of Canada’s anti-immigration views ‘didn’t resonate’ with voters: prof

Party was formed on anti-immigration, climate denying views in 2018

Windstorm knocks out power for 10,000 in north and central B.C.

Power slowly being restored, BC Hydro says

Three sprayed with mace during altercation at Port Coquitlam high school

Mounties are still working to determine exactly how many youth were involved

Investor alert: ‘Split games’ pyramid scheme circulating in B.C.

British Columbia Securities Commission issues warning about scheme selling virtual shares

Federal NDP may support B.C. with major projects, Carole James says

SkyTrain Surrey extension, Massey Tunnel need Ottawa’s help

Most Read

l -->