Nova Scotia

Parties mum on spending details

Nova Scotia's opposition leaders won't name the politicians who have been singled out for inappropriate or excessive spending claims by the auditor general.
Tory MLA Richard Hurlburt, seen here with PC Leader Karen Casey, was unapologetic about the power generator he keeps at home. ((CBC))
Nova Scotia's opposition leaders won't name the politicians who have been singled out for inappropriate or excessive spending claims by the auditor general.

Progressive Conservative Leader Karen Casey said four former Tory MLAs are among those who spent their constituency allowances "excessively" on questionable items, but it was up them to identify themselves.

She wouldn't say whether they owed taxpayers an apology.

But Casey's caucus colleague, Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt, is unapologetic about spending $8,000 on a generator. From that, he spent $3,000 to hook it up at his home.

"I represent the people of Yarmouth and as long as I'm their member I will represent the people of Yarmouth," he said. "This was deemed a product that was needed in our community, and that product is there for the citizens of my community if there's a disaster or anything."

Hurlburt said he paid back the installation fee last summer. But he maintains that he followed all of the rules in place at the time and doesn't have to reimburse the money for the generator itself.

Auditor General Jacques Lapointe didn't identify Hurlburt in his 142-page report, but he noted the generator as an inappropriate personal expense.

Lapointe questioned a number of claims, but also found there were inadequate spending controls. He listed a number of examples of excessive spending, including $13,445 for custom-made office furniture and $2,499 for a 40-inch LCD television. In some cases, there were no invoices or proof of payment.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil, who held his own news conference Thursday, said four of his caucus members made claims identified in the report, and all four have agreed to reimburse taxpayers.

He wouldn't apologize on behalf of his caucus, though he admitted the credibility of all politicians has been hurt.

"There's no question," McNeil said. "I can only tell you that … dealing with the things that I would purchase and dealing with my office as the leader were done following those rules completely, making sure that I protected those dollars the same way that I believe that taxpayers would protect them."

MLAs come forward

Four Liberal MLAs have come forward since Wednesday with their own admissions.

Dave Wilson, who represents Glace Bay, said he repaid $400 for patio furniture after the expense was questioned last year. 

Preston MLA Keith Colwell said he paid back $252 for 3-D art he bought from his brother.

Michel Samson, who represents Richmond, said he is willing to pay back about $1,200 in internet services for his apartment.

Clare MLA Wayne Gaudet announced Thursday that he's prepared to reimburse the Speaker's Office for parking lot sanding at his constituency office — an expense the auditor general deemed inappropriate.

"If I owe money to the Speaker’s Office, I will pay it back," Gaudet said in a release. "I will follow whatever recommendations the Speaker makes in my particular situation."

Several NDP politicians have also identified themselves, including Howard Epstein, MLA for Halifax-Chebucto.

Epstein said Thursday he spent nearly $2,969 in books between 2006 and 2009 that were deemed "outside the norm" though allowable under the rules. He said one-quarter were giveaways at high school graduations and the rest were related to politics.

MLAs are entitled to spend $45,000 a year in payments that require no receipts. The auditor general looked at claims they did submit between July 2006 and June 2009.