Cape Bre­toner cre­ates Face­book group about MLA ex­penses

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIN POTTIE epot­tie@cb­post.com

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.

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