People should be angry about spending scandal: finance minister
HALIFAX (CP)— Nova Scotia’s finance minister says people should be angry about an embarrassing political spending scandal that has cost one politician his job and dominated headlines across the province for two weeks.
Graham Steele, speaking Thursday after a cabinet meeting, said he’s received an earful from residents as he’s travelled the province seeking suggestions on how the NDP government should deal with a massive budget deficit.
“People are angry and they should be angry because their money has been wasted, and has been spent on things that should never have been bought with their money,” he said.
The minister conceded the scandal has made it difficult for him to seek input from Nova Scotians.
“The whole issue, obviously, makes things tougher,” he said. “You just have to look at the list of items to say, ‘Look, there’s no reason why a constituency office should have all of these electronic things.’”
The province’s auditor general released a three-year audit earlier this month citing numerous examples of inappropriate or excessive spending and the need to clean up vague rules and inadequate over- sight.
Former Tory cabinet minister Len Goucher spent $43,982 during his three years in the legislature — the most of any member. The purchases included 11 computers, 12 printers and four video recorders between 2006 and 2009.
Another former Tory minister, Richard Hurlburt, quit politics last Tuesday after it was revealed he spent $2,400 on a LCD television and $8,000 on a generator that was installed at his home.
Last week, auditor general Jacques Lapointe confirmed he received new information that prompted him to launch a forensic investigation. He declined to offer details, but he said the probe would look into possible illegalities.
Dan O’Connor, Dexter’s chief of staff, said there has been no discussion among the three main party leaders about calling a public inquiry into the scandal.
He said there appears to be little interest in an inquiry because such a probe would take at least a year to complete and cost more than $1 million.
Steele said it’s important to put things into perspective.
While the scandal involves questionable spending worth tens of thousands of dollars, Steele said he’s looking for ways to reduce a deficit that will be worth $1.3 bil- lion in three years — unless big changes are made.