Wildrose angered as public spending committee delayed

Tories suspend Public Accounts Committee to avoid embarrassment, according to Wildrose. But Conservatives say it delayed all government work to give MLAs more time to look in to budget numbers.

Hancock says suspension is because oppositions parties asked for more time to assess budget

Conservative House Leader Dave Hancock says the party isn't trying to avoid questions on spending and that the need for MLAs to prepare for the budget is more pressing. (CBC News)

An opposition MLA is accusing the province is trying to avoid embarrassment in the lead up to budget vote by of suspending a committee looking into government spending.

Wildrose MLA Rob Anderson, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, says the committee’s work has been abruptly suspended for the next four weeks as the government debates the Conservative budget.

"I think it's a rude and obnoxious decision," Anderson said. "We'd invited nine groups of individuals to come and appear before Public Accounts Committee in that four-week period and now we have to call them all back and re-arrange all their schedules.

"It's just rude. It's amateur hour. You don't do that."

The committee is set up the question spending by government ministries as well as other public bodies, like Alberta Health Services and post-secondary schools.

Anderson said committee members were planning to question AHS officials on controversial expense claims. He thinks the committee's work was suspended to smooth the way to pass the government’s budget.

However, Dave Hancock, Conservative house leader, said the committee was suspended to give MLAs more time to go over budget numbers — something he says opposition parties have asked for in the past.

"They can focus on the fiscal plan of government and the estimates, which is what they wanted to do and which we said was important as well," Hancock said.

He added that the Public Accounts Committee hadn’t been singled out and that all government work had been suspended in the lead up to the budget vote.

Hancock said the need to give time to MLAs to prepare for the budget debate is more pressing than other business.

"Public Accounts reviews history — last year. Whether it reviews history this week, or next week or the week after is not as important as MLAs having the time to focus on the preparation for the committees and estimates that they are dealing with today," he said.

He also said the suspension wasn’t abrupt and that Anderson had known about the suspension for a while.

The government aims to have the budget vote on April 25.