Party leaders pro­pose steps to make ex­pense sys­tem pub­lic

Cape Breton Post - - OBITUARIES/NEWS -

HAL­I­FAX (CP) — Nova Sco­tia’s three main po­lit­i­cal par­ties agreed Tues­day to move ahead as quickly as pos­si­ble with spe­cific re­forms aimed at mak­ing the ex­penses of leg­is­la­ture mem­bers more trans­par­ent.

Premier Dar­rell Dex­ter met for just over an hour with Lib­eral Leader Stephen McNeil and in­terim Con­ser­va­tive Leader Karen Casey to ad­dress con­cerns raised since the release of a re­port ear­lier this month by au­di­tor gen­eral Jac­ques La­pointe.

La­pointe’s au­dit, which looked at the three-year pe­riod be­tween 2006 and 2009, cited nu­mer­ous ex­am­ples of in­ap­pro­pri­ate and ex­ces­sive spending and high­lighted the need to strengthen vague rules and in­ad­e­quate over­sight.

Dex­ter said the par­ties have agreed that the in­ter­nal econ­omy board, which is re­spon­si­ble for ad­min­is­ter­ing the rules around ex­pense al­lowances, will meet Tues­day and be in­structed to take action in four ar­eas.

He said the leaders ex­pect the board to set a date for the post­ing on­line of all ex­penses filed by the leg­is­la­ture’s 52 mem­bers.

Dex­ter said it will also be asked to make all ex­penses re­ceipt­able, in­clud­ing liv­ing al­lowances for all house mem­bers who re­side out­side Hal­i­fax but main­tain ac­com­mo­da­tions in the cap­i­tal.

There are also di­rec­tives to dis- cuss the form­ing of an ap­pro­pri­ate body to deal with ad­min­is­tra­tive mat­ters around ex­penses and to look at boost­ing the pay of con­stituency as­sis­tants to bet­ter re­flect the amount of work they do.

The board will also re­ceive an in­terim re­port from for­mer Speaker Art Don­a­hoe, who is looking at the ex­pense sys­tem.

“I think there are some things we can do im­me­di­ately,” said Dex­ter. “So the best thing for us to do is to act ex­pe­di­tiously. I think that’s what the peo­ple of the prov­ince want to do.”

The meet­ing ap­peared to sat­isfy fears on the part of the op­po­si­tion that the New Democrats would move uni­lat­er­ally on a re­form pack­age.

It came a day af­ter Dex­ter pledged he would seek in­put from the Lib­er­als and Tories be­fore leg­is­la­tion is in­tro­duced in the com­ing ses­sion of the leg­is­la­ture, which will be­gin March 25.

McNeil said he be­lieves tak­ing im­me­di­ate steps on open­ness and trans­parency is crit­i­cal in restor­ing the pub­lic’s con­fi­dence in an in­sti­tu­tion — the leg­is­la­ture — that has “taken a hit.”

“There are many is­sues that are fac­ing our prov­ince that are crit­i­cal,” he said. “We are in a very tough fi­nan­cial sit­u­a­tion ... and the gov­ern­ment needs to start mov­ing to­ward gov­ern­ing and putting this is­sue be­hind us.”

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