Nova Scotia

Auditor general to review Richmond MLA's living expenses

The Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature has called in the Auditor General to look at the living expenses of a Liberal MLA.

Michel Samson, MLA for Richmond, rents in Halifax

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe. (CBC)

The Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature has called in the province's auditor general to examine the living expenses of a Liberal MLA from Cape Breton.

Gordie Gosse rejected an appeal by Michel Samson to have taxpayers cover a house his family has been renting in Halifax for the past six years.

Samson represents the riding of Richmond, but he and his wife have been living in Halifax since his re-election in 2006.

MLAs from outside Halifax are given an allowance up to $1,500 to rent accommodations in the city. Under the rules it can't be a principal residence and the rental arrangement can't benefit the member or any associated persons.

The ruling from the Speaker’s office late last week determined Samson lives full time in Halifax, spends most of his time in the city and can no longer bill taxpayers for his monthly rent.

Samson remains steadfast and is standing by his claim that his real home is in Arichat.

"I play hockey there. I pray there. That's where I go to church," he said.

"Needless to say [I was] surprised. I was very confident that with the additional information I provided that the Speaker would conclude that I was an outside member and I've always been an outside member."

Gosse said he is sending the issue to Auditor General Jacques Lapointe for review in light of criticism that was levelled at him by the Liberals suggesting it was an unfair ruling.

In a letter to Samson, Gosse wrote, "Since you have suggested that I erred in my review of the evidence and to ensure that the correct and fair result is not only arrived at but seen to be arrived at, I believe that somebody from outside my office and with the necessary expertise should review my decision."

Gosse said Lapointe, who has agreed to review the case, will be able to conduct an independent review. He said he stands by his earlier decision to cut off payments.

Samson will now have to convince the auditor general he's been wronged and that he is entitled to have taxpayers help pay the rent on his south-end Halifax home.

"I remain confident that as the rules are written I have followed those rules," he said.

Gosse said he’s not sure how long Lapointe will take to look at Samson's file and rule on the rejected living expense claim.

Since 2006, Samson has billed taxpayers for more than $115,000 in rent. Samson had asked for a review of his living arrangements after a CBC investigation raised a number of questions about the house he rents in the city.


with files from Jean Laroche