Former Auditor General disappointed in Fair Elections Act

While the Canadian Senate has done a good job, there's one aspect that is lacking.

"The real problem with the senate has been, and this is going to sound terrible, has been the selection of people who have been appointed there," according to Canada's former Auditor General Sheila Fraser.

Former Auditor General was guest speaker during the CFUW luncheon
Former Auditor General was guest speaker during the CFUW luncheon

And while she believes that a lot of very capable, outstanding Canadians are senators, there are also the "party hacks" who are too connected federally to provide the Senate's mandate of "second sober thought".

"There has to be a better way to select senators and to ensure they are not so politically aligned."

Fraser made her comments during a luncheon in Cobourg last week, hosted by the Canadian Federation of University Women Northumberland.

Following a career as an accountant, Fraser took the position of Deputy Auditor General, Audit Operations, in 1999. She was then appointed Auditor General of Canada two years later. Her 10-year mandate as Auditor General ended on May 30, 2011.

Three years have passed since retiring from the position and Fraser admits that "it was, to say the least, interesting".

The morning after releasing her first Auditor General's report, she found her face on the front page of all the national newspapers.

"It was rather unsettling for an accountant," said Fraser, "and some of the results of the audits were unsettling as well."

Fraser made national headlines across Canada with her report on the sponsorship scandal. She confirmed serious problems in the federal government's management of its sponsorship program and "highly questionable methods" in transferring funds.

The Auditor General made the news again with her report on the former ombudsman of federal inmates. Her report made allegations that the former ombudsman, Ron Stewart, had "often skipped work and collected $325,000 in improper or questionable salary, vacation pay and expenses during his 14-year tenure".

Since her retirement, Fraser has been critical of reforms to the proposed Fair Elections Act, citing that restrictions on how Elections Canada and the chief electoral officer can communicate and who the office can hire will make the office less independent. She is also disappointed in the process.

"If I could just add, one of the regrettable things about this elections bill was that it didn't kind of modernize the way elections are held."

She added that with dwindling participation in elections, particularly among young people, parents must instil in them the importance of voting.

"Hopefully as they (young people) get a little older and start paying taxes, they'll think about getting out to vote."

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