N.S. deputy premier apologizes to taxpayers for excessive spending by members

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's deputy premier said Thursday he is sorry for inappropriate and excessive spending by other politicians flagged in a report by the provincial auditor general.
But Frank Corbett said he was speaking out as a legislative member and not on behalf of the government.
Corbett said the apology is appropriate given that the public is being asked to do "hard things" as the province struggles with a $525-million deficit.
"If ... they see members of their leadership that are doing these things that seems to be wasting their money, then of course they deserve an apology," said Corbett.
He said he felt he needed to say something even though he's not been implicated in the report.
"I feel awful about this and I apologize to Nova Scotians," Corbett said. "It's one of those things that whenever tax dollars' money is not used wisely then at the end of the day we're on the hook for it."
But Corbett said he couldn't speak to whether the government should release all of the names of those implicated in the report, saying he hoped individual members would voluntarily come forward.
When he released the report Wednesday, auditor general Jacques Lapointe said he considered releasing names, but since he found no criminal wrongdoing he felt it was better to focus on the need for better rules and accounting procedures.
One of the members who has since come forward is Natural Resources Minister John MacDonell, who also apologized to his constituents.
MacDonell said that although he didn't contravene the rules in place for expenses, he agreed with the report's conclusion that spending over $13,000 on custom-made office furniture was excessive.
"I think my constituents to me are probably the most important people I deal with, so for them I would definitely like to apologize if this excessive spending seems to be a real issue."
He said he had paid back the money for the furniture.
MacDonell also spent $2,600 on an office printer. He said he was disturbed to find out Thursday that his office had purchased the "Cadillac of printers."
Leaders of Nova Scotia's opposition parties also said it wasn't their duty to identify the members of their caucus whose expenses were deemed inappropriate.
Interim Conservative Leader Karen Casey said four former members of her party were flagged in the report, but she added that she didn't feel it was her responsibility to name names.
"I'm saying that expenses that are taxpayers' dollars, people have a right to know that," Casey said.
"If that's revealed through the (internal economy board) or if that's revealed through the auditor general, or through the Speaker's Office, that's fine."
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said he's told his caucus it's their responsibility to own up publicly if they have spent public funds excessively or inappropriately.
"I have said to all of my members as the auditor was going around having his conversations that you need to be open, transparent and if you're identified in this report, come clean," McNeil said.
"It's ultimately their decision, not mine."
In his report, Lapointe concluded that members of all parties had spent public money excessively or inappropriately on items including an espresso maker for $738, a model boat office display for $790 and MacDonell's $13,445 custom-made office furniture.
The office of Premier Darrell Dexter, who is out of the country on vacation, has said he intends to repay the public purse for $2,150 he spent on a digital camera and $5,501 for two laptops - also items that Lapointe said were excessive.
Tory member Richard Hurlburt identified himself as the member who spent $8,000 in public money for a generator to be installed at his home.
Hurlburt said Thursday he has nothing to be sorry for and that he was acting in the interests of his constituents in Yarmouth by providing a backup system for his neighbours, including a seniors' complex, in times of emergency.
"This was deemed a product that was needed in our community," Hurlburt said. "That product is there for the citizens of my community if there's a disaster or anything."

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Yarmouth

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