A Charlottetown man has been told it would cost him thousands of dollars to find out what Premier Robert Ghiz spends public money on.
Dan Aiken, a member of the Progressive Conservative Party, filed a Freedom of Information request for expenses details for Ghiz and Alan Campbell, his chief of staff, for the last seven years.
All cabinet minister and senior staff get a credit card for government-related expenses.
“They are spending public dollars and I think that the norm would be to tell the public what you're spending the money on and to have that level of transparency and oversight,” Aiken said.
But Aiken received a letter from the clerk of executive council, Steve MacLean, saying it would take 250 hours to compile the information, and he would be charged at least $5,100.
"The premier and his expenses, and spending public dollars somehow are not within the public interest. Obviously I disagree,” Aiken said.
Aiken asked to have the fee waived, but was refused.
"In the absence of a clear public interest in the disclosure of the records, it is not reasonable to expect the public to assume these costs, particularly when the costs and required effort are significant,” MacLean wrote in reply to Aiken.
Premier happy with arrangement
Ghiz agrees with that ruling and says expenses information is public now.
"We do have our expenditures online now and obviously there are estimates on the floor of the house to be able to ask those questions as well, and people that are looking for other information there is access to information,” he said.
Opposition Leader Steven Myers disagrees. He notes that only fuel costs and travel expenses are online. Myers says there is little disclosure, especially on individual invoices or receipts.
"When we [Freedom of Information requested] ministers, we found that they've bought bottles of water, that they've used valet parking, that they've bought headphones for themselves out of the headphone machine at the Toronto airport,” he said.
“I mean, it's things like that that you don't see on the online transactions. When you see the actual receipts it's quite stunning how little regard the Ghiz government has for the public purse."
Aitken is preparing an appeal to the province's freedom of information commissioner and it will be up to her to decide whether the premier's expenses and those of this chief of staff are of clear public interest and that the fees should be waived or not.