Nova Scotia

Former MLA Goucher biggest spender

Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Len Goucher has been identified as the Nova Scotia politician who bought 11 computers and 12 printers with public funds between July 2006 and June 2009.
Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Len Goucher bought a variety of electronics in three years. ((CBC))
Former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Len Goucher has been identified as the Nova Scotia politician who bought 11 computers and 12 printers with public funds between July 2006 and June 2009.

Documents released by the Speaker's office Wednesday show Goucher bought the items and claimed $29,456.27 for his constituency and $9,237.87 for electronic technology, for a total of $38,694.14.

Goucher also bought five digital cameras and four video cameras in the three-year time span.

A report released last week by Nova Scotia Auditor General Jacques Lapointe included only a list of the expenses he considered "excessive and unreasonable," without any politicians' names attached. He has said he did not find any evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

Expense list

complete account of MLA expenses (PDF)

Speaker Charlie Parker said Wednesday that he released the full list because of a public outcry.

"Public pressure and leaders, the MLAs were telling me it's the right thing to do and I certainly believe it is the right thing to do," he told reporters after the expense lists were handed out.

Parker said in hindsight, the information should have been released sooner.

Alfie MacLeod, the Tory MLA for Cape Breton West, had the second highest expense amount with $33,150.51. Richard Hurlburt — who expensed a generator and a TV among his items — claimed $29,247.48. Bill Estabrooks, the New Democrat MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, had the lowest expense amount at $2,043.96.

New Democrat Michele Raymond, who represents Halifax Atlantic, is the MLA who received duplicate payments for the same expenses on 10 different occasions.

Premier Darrell Dexter expensed a total of $19,299.63 during those three years. The documents show he bought a briefcase from Roots Canada for $409.26, among his claims. Five computers were also expensed.

"I have probably one of the busiest offices in the province," Dexter said. "The technology that I use is to support my staff and support my work in the constituency."

The auditor general criticized the province's expense system in his report and said many politicians had made "excessive and unreasonable" claims, in part because of inadequate spending controls.

Dexter said Wednesday the system was too "porous" and did not have enough guidelines. He said it allowed politicians to purchase whatever they felt they needed, "whether that was required or not.

Speaker Charlie Parker hands out copies of the expense lists to reporters on Wednesday. ((CBC))
"I'm not the premier that presided over the setup of this system but I am the premier that's going to finish it," he said.

Interim Progressive Conservative leader Karen Casey said she wanted MLAs — both former and current — to explain their expenses to taxpayers.

"If there is no explanation, then members have to come forward and say so," she said. "If there is, I think Nova Scotians deserve to hear that."

Casey spent $910.86 on a mocha-coloured love seat and $739.86 on a mocha-coloured chair for her constituency office, according to the expense papers.

Former MLAs react

The documents reveal that in addition to Hurlburt, former Tory MLAs Carolyn Bolivar-Getson and Bill Dooks also purchased generators.

While Hurlburt paid back the $8,000 for his generator and promised to donate it, Dooks made no such promises.

"I would certainly consider it a good investment if someone's life was in jeopardy or if a senior's home or whatever would've needed it," he said. "As an MLA, we have certain responsibilities and that's the safekeeping of our community."

Dooks said the generator is installed in his home in the head of Jeddore and has never been used.

Bolivar-Getson said she, too, had never used her generator. She said she purchased it when she became minister of emergency management and travelled across the province speaking about emergency preparedness.

"I was out telling people to do this and I thought that I should purchase one for the constituency in the event that there was a power failure," she said.

The former MLA for Lunenburg West said she called the Speaker's office before she bought the generator and was told it was an eligible expense.

"Truthfully, I believe that we're being made out to be villains and we were operating within the guidelines that were set down," she said. "If it wasn't supposed to be a guideline, then I guess we should've been told that. Right from the start."

Hurlburt's resignation

Resignation letter

Richard Hurlburt's full resignation letter to interim Progressive Conservative leader Karen Casey.

Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservative party released the full text of Hurlburt's resignation letter on Wednesday, one day after announcing that the MLA for Yarmouth was quitting.

"I deeply regret my error in judgment as noted in the recent Auditor General’s report," he said in the letter. "My response to it has caused much anguish for my family, my community, my caucus, my party and individuals across Nova Scotia.

"I am truly sorry for this misstep and apologize to my constituents, all Nova Scotians, and my family for this pain and embarrassment. I can only imagine the discomfort and embarrassment they must be experiencing by comparing it to the pain I feel knowing that I am responsible and have let them down."