PEI

Dumville accuses premier's staffer of trying to influence committee

Independent MLA Bush Dumville questioned Premier Wade MacLauchlan on whether his administration tried to influence the province's public accounts committee.

Wade MacLauchlan says he doesn't tell committees what to do

Independent MLA Bush Dumville told the house he heard Robert Vessey say Premier Wade MacLauchlan wants "e-gaming put behind him." (P.E.I. Legislative Assembly)

Independent MLA Bush Dumville questioned Premier Wade MacLauchlan on whether his administration tried to influence the province's public accounts committee. The suggestion came on the first day of the spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

Public accounts is a committee of the legislature that scrutinizes government spending.

Dumville was a member of the committee when he was still with the Liberal party, as it was reviewing the auditor general's report on e-gaming.

He told the house the premier's chief of staff would hold meetings with Liberal members of public accounts before each committee meeting "to influence the outcomes of committee decisions."

"On January the 6th, 2017, your chief of staff Robert Vessey, in a meeting with Liberal committee members and others on the second floor of the Coles building, made the following statement. And I quote, 'The premier wants e-gaming put behind him,'" he said.

Dumville asked MacLauchlan if he gave the instruction to his chief of staff or if Vessey was acting alone. 

'E-gaming has been put behind us'

A government spokesperson said Vessey did not say that and MacLauchlan told the house he does not have personal knowledge of that happening either.

"There was a long preamble there and some insinuations ... that I know nothing about or the factual basis for it," MacLauchan said. "I will say again that our committee members, our caucus members work as a team and we are moving forward as a government and indeed I expect we will find in this sitting that indeed e-gaming has been put behind us."

Opposition parties have long accused government of trying to direct the work of standing committees.

Because public accounts is charged with oversight of government spending, it is the only standing committee where, under the rules of the legislature, cabinet ministers cannot sit as members or even observe meetings, unless they're called as witnesses.

The clerk of the legislature confirmed the reason for the rule is to prevent ministers from attempting to influence the direction of the committee in its oversight of government spending.

MacLauchlan said, as leader, he does not make it his business to tell committees what to do. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

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