Nova Scotia

Liberal MLAs once again limit who can appear before public accounts committee

Liberal members of the Nova Scotia legislature's public accounts committee have rejected a motion to have the province's information and privacy commissioner appear before the committee next week.

A motion to have Nova Scotia's privacy commissioner appear before the legislative committee was rejected

Liberal MLA Gordon Wilson says the sole focus of the public accounts committee is the auditor general and his reports. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Liberal members of Nova Scotia's public accounts committee have once again used their majority to keep the group's work focused exclusively on Auditor General Michael Pickup and his reports.

They rejected a motion Wednesday to have Catherine Tully, the province's information and privacy commissioner, appear before the legislative committee next week alongside Pickup.  

Pickup and Tully plan to release reports Tuesday outlining how the government handled a breach of its access to information portal.

Last spring, a 19-year-old man was able to download thousands of documents that were supposed to be protected. The government originally called in police saying the site had been hacked, with Premier Stephen McNeil accusing the young man of "stealing" information.

The man was arrested in connection with the privacy breach but investigators later determined there were no grounds to lay charges.

PC MLA Tim Halman said it would be useful to hear from Tully and Pickup when the committee deals with the issue next week, but Gordon Wilson, the MLA for Clare-Digby who led the charge for the Liberals, said no. 

Tory Tim Halman says he has 'major concerns' over the Liberals' attempts to limit the scope of the committee. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Speaking to reporters afterward, Wilson rejected the claim he's not interested in what Tully might have to say. He said he simply wants the focus to be on the AG and his report.

"Right now the focus of the public accounts committee ... is to hear reports from the auditor general, period," he said. "And that's what we're doing."

This move to restrict the work of the committee to what the auditor general's office generates sparked a walkout by opposition members when the Liberals first set that plan in motion last fall.

Halman said his caucus remains opposed to such a narrow scope of focus.

"I'm expressing that I have some major concerns about this and today illustrates a classic example if it's in the public's interest, we should be able to call those witnesses," he said.

A second motion to have Tully testify at a later date was also voted down by the Liberals.

About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.