Peo­ple should be an­gry about spending scan­dal: fi­nance min­is­ter

Cape Breton Post - - OUR COMMUNITY -

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.

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