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Harry Stemp Feb 28, 2013

photo by Stuart Blower
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Harry Stemp was born in Uxbridge in 1934. He started his career with the Uxbridge Times-Journal as an apprentice typesetter at age 14. He soon began writing sports for the Times-Journal and eventually owned 10 community newspapers in central Ontario including the Times-Journal. He started writing his award-winning Stemp’s Stew in 1965. The column came to an end shortly after he sold his newspaper chain in 1989, but was rejuvenated in 2006 when Harry became a regular contributor to The Cosmos.

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Back to the trip

To many Canadians the Senate is a cozy haven for people who have worked for the political party in power, or good friends of a politician and a complete waste of tax dollars. For one thing, few Canadians even know what the Senate does. Oh sure, Senators will tell you they work very hard, and I’m sure a small number do, but others often don’t bother to show up for sessions and they still get paid a large salary as if they have perfect attendance.
Besides the large salary, they have huge fringe benefits. Travel all over the world on our tax dollars even if they aren’t conducting Senate business. I recall many years ago chatting with a Senator on a flight to Barbados and while I was in the long lineup with the commoners he was going through the short lineup designated for residents and diplomats. He told me he was on official business but I also knew the Canadian High Commissioner and when I mentioned this to him he laughed and said, “What a joke”.
On my recent travels to South Africa there was a retired Senator from Manitoba travelling with us. I enquired about his retirement package. Besides a nice fat pension for life he still enjoys his travel perks so, folks, you and I were paying for his travel and, I can tell you, it is not cheap to travel that far.
Now we have Senator Mike Duffy grabbing headlines by gathering at the already crowded Senate money trough. But you gotta to hand it to Mike. He is a fairly new Senator, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that he had just won the lottery without buying a ticket. Although he has lived in Ottawa for years, he claimed that his principal residence was in an Atlantic province which meant he could charge for living expenses in Ottawa. A bit of investigative reporting by a member of the press who chatted with folks in that community revealed that they hadn’t seen Duffy there for years.
When interviewed, Duffy said that Canadians knew his record and how he respected their tax dollars. So much so that I hear he has sent a cheque to the Senate finance committee paying back about $42,000 he had received illegally. Bet there was a large tear in his eye. But Duffy is not the only one. Two other Senators are coming under the gun as well. Newly appointed Mac Harb, who lives not too far from the Parliament Buildings, was charging a residence in Quebec which, I understand, belongs to his son. Then we have Pamela Wallin who racked up so many travel expense dollars one wonders how she ever had time to attend any of the sessions.
Pressure has caused the Senate to take action and call for a review of the expenses of all Senators – they never thought of this procedure that is common in private business – and guess what. They will be audited by a member of the Senate. Now don’t get me wrong. This could be a completely legitimate audit. But wouldn’t Canadians feel better if an independent accounting firm was called in to look at the books rather than one of their Senate cronies.
So is it any wonder that PM Harper has strong support with Canadians as he tries to get away from Senate appointments being given to party hacks and have all Senators elected instead of appointed. And also they would have to run for re-election the same as Members of Parliament, provincial members and those who take seats on our municipal council.
But all is not lost. Recently the Toronto Star published a brilliant web site which contains photos of all the members of the Senate. Just place your cursor on a photo and up pops info on that Senator, especially their expenses. You may want to share it with friends across Canada. Here is the web site. It may be advisable to have a few cold ones before doing this so you will be relaxed and won’t blow your top. 
Important that we be fair. When you go through the list of Senators you will notice that Senators who were appointed because of their interest in the environment and other important social issues are among the lowest in using travel and other perks they are entitled to. That should tell you something about those who want to make a difference and those who see a Senate appointment as a lifetime of financial security.
Appreciated the response I received from my report on a wonderful trip through Africa and mentioning that, like me, it was top of their bucket list. Over the years I have written about my many travel experiences that I have been fortunate to enjoy, and it is good to know readers enjoy sharing in my travels. Many asked about photos and the best I can offer is a wonderful website that I use called Picture Trail. For those interested, just go to http://www.picturetrail.com/hstemp and go through the ‘African – 2013’ albums. There are more to be added when I get time.
Back to the trip, and something I noticed on one of our bus tours was that none of the vehicle windshields were splattered with bugs as we suffer here in Ontario. However, along the medians on the divided highway was a continuous line of beautiful flowers. The bus driver explained that they plant Oleander which are dangerous to flying insects thus no bugs flying around the highway means no splatters on the windshields. Clever, I thought, but with our climate it would never work in Ontario.
Another was the lack of solar panels in a country that has more days of strong sunshine than most countries in the world. The guide explained that they have very cheap electrical power so no need to go to that expense and also the country experiences very strong winds that also contribute to the power grid.
Before travelling to Africa I realized that, besides the beautiful scenery, we would be exposed to what are commonly known a ‘shanty towns’. These are large areas of shabby steel shacks which house thousands of Africans who  have no incomes and unfortunately the children have no hope of ever getting away from the ‘shanty town’ slums in their lifetime. What I wasn’t prepared for was the vastness of these ‘shanty towns’. I expected small pockets but was shocked to see them run about a half mile from the rail tracks and as we travelled along go on for miles and miles. Very depressing. Life is the roll of the dice and I thought there, but for the grace of God, go I. It certainly made me feel very thankful to be born Canadian in Uxbridge.