N.S. premier says no unilateral action to clean up members spending

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Premier Darrell Dexter said Monday that he doesn't intend to move ahead unilaterally with legislative reforms in the wake of Nova Scotia's spending scandal.
Dexter said he intends to meet with both opposition leaders following his return from talks between Canadian premiers and U.S. government officials in Washington, D.C.
He said he will want input from all parties as his government moves to reform legislative members' expense allowance spending once the legislature reconvenes March 25.
"Very early on I said that there had to be reform and what we are looking for is the best possible system that will work for everyone and one that we can do as quickly as possible," Dexter said from Washington during a speakerphone conference with reporters.
He said anything that would advance transparency and openness is something that all sides should be able to discuss.
Earlier this month, the province's auditor general released a three-year audit that cited numerous examples of inappropriate and excessive spending and highlighted the need to strengthen vague rules and inadequate oversight.
In response, Dexter has already said that the all-party board that administers legislature members' allowances will be disbanded in favour of a more modern and open commission that will meet publicly.
He said another key to cleaning up the system will be increased support around the administration of spending rules, whether it's through a separate administrative body or a beefed up Speaker's Office.
"Having an appropriate administration that is transparent ... I think frankly that's one of the big pieces of the change that needs to be made."
Last week Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil revealed that Dexter met with opposition leaders in mid-January to discuss how to handle the release of the auditor general's report.
McNeil said the purpose of the meeting was not to manage the message, but to find out whether the government would act on its own to change the expense system.
Dexter said there was no all-party agreement on the disclosure of information around members' expenses.
"These were thoroughly general conversations with absolutely no agreement to do anything of that nature," he said.

Geographic location: Washington, D.C., HALIFAX, Nova Scotia U.S.

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