Nova Scotia

No need for expenses inquiry: premier

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter rejected a call Thursday for a public inquiry into the MLA spending scandal

Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter rejected a call Thursday for a public inquiry into the MLA spending scandal.

He said that thanks to Auditor General Jacques Lapointe's report, excessive and inappropriate spending by MLAs will be curtailed. 

"We have to move past this, and we have to put in place a system that is going to restore faith in the expense system for MLAs," Dexter said.

The premier said there is no need to investigate further how MLAs have been spending the public's money.

"The auditor was able to audit those things that have receipts. You can't audit non-receiptables," Dexter said. "I think we have to deal with the audit that is before us."

The premier has promised reforms to the expense system, but it's not clear how soon the loopholes will be closed.

Finance Minister Graham Steele said it should be relatively simple to make MLAs provide receipts for all public money they spend.

The Legislature's internal economy board has the power to change the rules. Speaker Charlie Parker has the power  to convene the board, but he said government lawyers have not begun thinking about the issue of receipts.

Instead, he said, the lawyers are drafting language around the $84 per diem for members during legislative sittings. The change would eliminate so-called double dipping.

"At this point, it's just that one item around meals, around per diems, that we're trying to get the draft regulations, and get it right," Parker said. 

Parker said he's also waiting for an analysis from former speaker Art Donohoe, who said it will be at least two or three weeks before he can issue an interim report on the issue.

Donahoe was asked by Dexter to submit an interim report on allowances and perks for legislative members in the wake of the province's spending scandal. It's expected in time for the next meeting of the board that oversees the regulations on members' expense allowances.

 Donahoe is expected to submit a full report by July 31.

With files from The Canadian Press