Nova Scotia MLAs Must Work to Restore Public Trust
February 12, 2010
You’ve no doubt either read or heard about the recent Auditor General’s report. One chapter of this report deals with MLA expenditures. Since the release of that report, many people have called or e-mailed me to express their concern.
Clearly, residents are deeply concerned and troubled about the issues raised in the report. I share these concerns and see this as a critical matter of public trust.
While the auditor’s report covered very little of the time I’ve been an MLA, no expense that I have claimed as part of my budget since becoming an MLA was either named in the report, nor has any claim of mine been of the type the Auditor General has raised concerns about. Such expenses include concerns over inappropriate advertising, personal expenses, staff payments, and “double-dipping”.
It was recognized, even before this report, that there’s a need to improve transparency and accountability in MLA expenses. I heard it at the doors during the election and steps were taken by all parties in the fall session to start improvements.
Even before the Auditor General released his report, the legislature made initial decisions aimed at better accountability and expenditure reduction. These included the elimination of the annual technology allowance, elimination of the $45,000 tax-free severance which was payable to defeated and retiring MLAs, a reduction by 21 per cent of constituency office budgets for the remainder of this fiscal year, freezing constituency staff and MLA salaries, and ensuring that the province remains the owner of all items purchased for constituency offices.
The Liberal Party asked in the fall that meetings of the Internal Economy Board, which sets expense policy, be open to the media and the public.
The legislature, through the Speaker’s Office, has hired a consultant to review the entire expense system. A report is being completed on how best to eliminate the structural problems in the expense system, and address the concerns of the Auditor General and the public.
I was honoured to be elected to represent Dartmouth East. Regardless of the party or candidate you personally support or have supported, I’m here to represent all residents. In choosing me to be your MLA you’ve put your trust in me to manage public money with which I am entrusted in an appropriate fashion.
I’m deeply disappointed that many of the stories we’re all now witness to may cause you to understandably feel let down and to distrust everyone in political life.
Changes are needed. That much is clear. Together with Liberal Party Leader Stephen McNeil and my caucus colleagues, I will be an active part of bringing forward changes.
I will work with you and my fellow MLAs to address concerns raised by the Auditor General and to restore public trust.