Cape Bretoner creates Facebook group about MLA expenses
SYDNEY — A Facebook group created by a Cape Bretoner living in Alberta has sparked a whole lot of discussion about Nova Scotia MLA expense claims and the need for financial transparency.
Inverness native Ed Ryan, who is studying instrumentation in Calgary, said he created a Facebook group after browsing comments on a Nova Scotia news organization’s website.
“I thought it was kind of too bad that they weren’t going to be seen as a number of people grouped together and I thought Facebook would be a good spot for them to be able to say what they want,” he said.
Ryan’s group, Petition for Full Investigation/Audit Nova Scotia MLA Expenses, opened on the social networking site just over a week ago and has already generated a membership of approximately 2,300 people.
The 28-year-old said an announcement made by Nova Scotia auditor general Jacques Lapointe on Friday has somewhat changed group’s focus, but it hasn’t slowed down an exchange of views on the subject.
Lapointe issued a statement saying he is following up on some of the questionable transactions he flagged in his audit released earlier this month.
Among the spending called into question were the use of taxpayers’ money to buy custom-made furniture, renovations, cameras, bigscreen TVs, laptops and other items deemed too expensive or inappropriate.
The audit, which covered from July 2006 to June 2009, cited numerous examples of what Lapointe considered inappropriate or excessive spending and the need to clean up vague rules and inadequate oversight. It’s considered the first audit of its kind in 15 years.
On the Facebook group, many people expressed the need for provincial representatives to be held accountable for their actions, including the suggestion of holding them criminally responsible for stealing.
Several group members also stated Nova Scotia should have proper checks and balances when it comes to MLA spending, and a few people were criticized continuing the auditor general’s investigation, saying it would only cost the province more money.
“It’s not just a matter of money and ethical spending, it’s a matter of the public’s faith,” said Ryan. “ The public’s faith has to be restored.”
Ryan asks that the group remain impartial to political party preference, however, he said it’s not in his interest or the interest of other administrators to moderate group comments.