Former Tory cabinet minister bought video game with taxpayer money

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's spending scandal continued to widen Wednesday after the Speaker's Office released a list of expenses filed by politicians over a three-year span, including those of a former Tory cabinet minister who bought 11 computers, 12 printers and a video game with public funds.
The six-page expense claim list for Len Goucher revealed that the former immigration minister had spent $9,238 on items classified by the province's auditor general as electronic technology items between 2006 and 2009.
The computer and printer purchases had been listed in a report on excessive and inappropriate expenses released last week by auditor general Jacques Lapointe, who didn't include names.
Speaker Charlie Parker released the breakdown of expenses after Premier Darrell Dexter requested him to do so.
"Some of this information I got late Monday evening. I hadn't really had time to fully look at it, but now that I have, I agree it's the right thing to do," Parker said.
Last week, Goucher came forward to admit that he'd bought three MP3 players for $150, but said he'd given them to three local schools.
He did not return messages seeking comment.
The expense list shows that among his purchases was a video game called Dance Dance Revolution Universe for Xbox 360 at a cost of $100. The list also reveals all three party leaders expensed furniture and electronics.
Dexter spent $9,248 on six computers and a digital camera. Interim Tory Leader Karen Casey spent $300 on an electric fireplace.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil's biggest expense was $1,600 for a computer.
The spending controversy has already forced the resignation of Tory member Richard Hurlburt, who stepped down Tuesday after apologizing for using nearly $8,000 worth of public money to buy a generator. He also spent more than $3,000 for the purchase and installation of a TV.
Moments after the documents were released, Casey said the public needs explanations from members and former members for their expense spending.
"What I want to do is go through this, identify them, let them know this is what's there and that there has to be an explanation for that," she said. "That is their responsibility."
Other expenses of note included generators purchased for the constituency offices of former Conservative cabinet ministers Carolyn Bolivar-Getson and Bill Dooks for $3,839 and $6,449 respectively.
Liberal Keith Colwell racked up the highest total for technology purchases at just over $10,000, while NDP Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks had the lowest at $195.
Documents listing duplicate payments showed NDP member Michele Raymond was reimbursed 10 times for an expense already claimed, receiving $3,072. Four instances of double-billing were cited for NDP member Leonard Preyra for a total of $2,208.
In his report, Lapointe found over half of legislative members - 28 of 51 - claimed for duplicate payments at a cost of $14,123.
Despite the latest revelations Lapointe said there needed to be some perspective on the "types of things we've been finding here."
Lapointe has already said he found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing in the course of his probe.
He maintained Wednesday that it was more important that ambiguous rules around what legislative members can expense be fixed in the future than it was to probe expense claims filed before 2006.
"We have not been finding the kind of large scale illegality that has happened in other jurisdictions like Newfoundland," said Lapointe. "If you look at the types of wrongdoing that was done here and the scale of it, it simply would not warrant more work from my office."
Dexter has promised to introduce legislation to strengthen spending controls that will include disbanding the all-party board that regulates members' expenses in favour of a commission that will meet publicly.

Organizations: NDP

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Bolivar, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Peter
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Sick of this theft tell them about sign he petition at and pass it on
    http://www.petitiononline.com/BDeVenne/petition.html

  • Another 2 Cents
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Okay, when you double dip, or dip numerous times to be reimbursed for something you have already been reimbursed for, I think I would classify that as fraud. Last time I checked fruad was a crime, so it is criminal!

  • sparky00
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    If they all do not face criminal charges, then the system is definitely broken.
    I am going to start checking into starting up a political party. We may not end up being a bunch of lawyers, but we won't be a bunch of crooks either!

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Peter, I just took alook at that survey, but it's not going to help. It calls for the release of names (which has already been done) and calls for police action (which is not warranted), they didn't break any laws, they made some very unethical decisions.

    I would however sign a petition that called for resignations due to breaches of public trust (i.e., Richard Hurlburt), and for tax audits of every member to detemine whether taxable benefits had been claimed where personal expenses where charged to the public purse.

  • Greg
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Yes, I agree that those particular incidents should be treated differently. While it may be understandable that and expense was claimed twice by accicent, I find it hard to believe that the same mistake was made ten times.

    That being said, those events would constitute fraud, but the others were not criminal in nature. I still resignation and tax audits would be punishment enough. Police/legal action would just end costing the taxpayer even more!

  • Genghis
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Dance Dance Revolution Universe is more than just a game, it's also a great way to develop a strong sense of rhythm and a great way to get into shape.

    I think it's money well spent and that more of our MLA's should immediately run out an buy this sweat inducing game.
    Of all the expenditures made by our MLA's, this is surely one of the wisest. I would love to see more of our politicians dancing to Dance Dance Revolution.