Watch­ing the bud­get

Con­ser­va­tives prom­ise ‘no boon­dog­gle’ law, but of­fer few de­tails

Cape Breton Post - - News -

Nova Sco­tia’s Tories are promis­ing to in­tro­duce a ‘no­boon­dog­gle guar­an­tee’’ if they are elected in the May 30 pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Jamie Bail­lie says any time a gov­ern­ment project ex­ceeds its bud­get by more than 10 per cent that would trig­ger an automatic in­ter­nal au­dit, the re­sults of which would be made pub­lic.

“It’s a guar­an­tee to the tax­pay­ers of this prov­ince that when their tax money gets squan­dered that they’re go­ing to know about it,’’ he said Fri­day at his cam­paign head­quar­ters in Hal­i­fax, though he had few de­tails to of­fer when asked how the new law would work.

Bail­lie would not set a thresh­old when asked what level of gov­ern­ment spend­ing would be cov­ered by the guar­an­tee. And he said a Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment would work out the de­tails later when asked if the new rules would come with any leg­isla­tive teeth, like fines or other penal­ties.

He was also un­clear about who would con­duct the au­dits, say­ing only they would be in­de­pen­dent.

“The main ben­e­fit is that it would be made pub­lic and ev­ery­one would know, and the premier and re­spon­si­ble min­is­ters would be held ac­count­able for the boon­dog­gle it­self,’’ he told a news con­fer­ence. “There’s no greater cleaner than the light of day.’’

As an ex­am­ple, he pointed to the re­con­struc­tion of the schooner Bluenose II, which was plagued by cost-over­runs and le­gal wran­gling for years. In 2014, less than a year af­ter the Lib­er­als as­sumed power, Premier Stephen McNeil said the pre­vi­ous NDP gov­ern­ment’s han­dling of the file re­sulted in a “boon­dog­gle’’ that re­quired a full re­view by the prov­ince’s au­di­tor gen­eral.

Bail­lie said such a re­view would be automatic un­der his no-boon­dog­gle guar­an­tee.

“It’s a guar­an­tee of ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency,’’ he said.

Lib­eral Premier Stephen McNeil ar­gued that the prov­ince’s projects are al­ready “stage­gated,’’ a project man­age­ment ap­proach to keep project bud­gets and time­lines in check.

“You’re adding more bu­reau­cracy on top of what is al­ready tak­ing place,’’ he said, not­ing that gov­ern­ment projects are al­ready ac­counted for.

On the Bluenose II file, McNeil said his gov­ern­ment knew “very quickly that the for­mer gov­ern­ment had put it in the wrong depart­ment and that the process had got­ten out of con­trol.’’

He said the schooner was moved back into the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and In­fra­struc­ture Re­newal, where projects are mon­i­tored closely.

McNeil added that if Bail­lie is “look­ing for ac­count­abil­ity,’’ he should start with the “$480 mil­lion hole in his bud­get.’’

As for other projects, Bail­lie cited the prov­ince’s de­ci­sion to in­vest heav­ily in the pri­vate ferry ser­vice that links Nova Sco­tia with Maine.

Last year, Bail­lie said the com­pany run­ning the ser­vice, Bay Fer­ries, “hosed’’ the gov­ern­ment so badly it re­sulted in a “boon­dog­gle.’’

Bail­lie’s lat­est cam­paign pledge was part of a pack­age of re­forms aimed at in­creas­ing ac­count­abil­ity among the po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the gov­ern­ment.

He said the prov­ince also needs an in­de­pen­dent of­fice to over­see ethics of con­flict of in­ter­est. That of­fice would re­port to the leg­is­la­ture and not to the govern­ing party, he said.

One of his more un­ortho­dox com­mit­ments is a plan to have all po­lit­i­cal par­ties sub­mit their elec­tion plat­forms to in­de­pen­dent au­dits prior to ev­ery elec­tion.

He later con­firmed that his party plat­form had not been au­dited, and he de­clined to sub­ject it to an in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial re­view now, say­ing there wasn’t enough time left in the cam­paign.

Bail­lie also promised to in­tro­duce fixed elec­tion dates for the prov­ince, which is the only one in Canada that doesn’t al­ready have them.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.