MLA expenses a scandal but….

Yes, the MLA expenses scandal is a scandal. Some of what some MLAs filed as legitimate expenses were not. A few claims may even be criminal. Let’s make MLAs pay back what they can’t justify, and prosecute those whose actions crossed the line. Let’s fix a screwed-up system. Then let’s move on.

When it comes to scandalous wastes of taxpayers’ dollars, MLA expenses represent a piddling amount, even within the auditor-general’s report that started the current tsunami of public outrage.


The auditor-general’s report painted with a broad brush, flagging items he deemed excessive, lacked receipts or were otherwise questionable without digging deeper to determine which might actually be justifiable.

While many expenses—can you say the Dance Dance Revolution video game in the hands of ex-Tory MLA Len Goucher’s grandson, or the patio furniture in Liberal Dave Wilson’s backyard?—seem indefensible, others are more iffy.

Take ex-premier Rodney MacDonald’s $3,250 purchase of a projection screen for presentations. Hardly something for your rec room. MacDonald says community groups still use it. Did he pay too much? Should such items be paid out of constituency expenses? Good questions. But neither justifies labeling MacDonald a pig or a crook.

Or take the pink Nano—valued at $261.06 —that shows up among NDP MLA Leonard Preyra’s expenses. Preyra says he donated it to the Italian-Canadian Cultural Association of Nova Scotia for a fundraiser. He’s not alone. NDP Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks proudly acknowledges he spent much of his flagged $44,424 in advertising, donations and gifts on local schools and sports teams. Should MLAs use constituency funds to help not-for-profit groups and teams? Another good question. But is doing so a flogging offence?

And, while the auditor general noted over half of legislative members—28 of 51—filed duplicate receipts, the report shows the total cost was $14,123, or approximately $92.31 per MLA per year of the audit.

“The types of wrongdoing… and the scale of it… simply would not warrant more work from my office,” the auditor-general initially said. Partly because of the outcry and new information he’s received, he is now looking at possible criminality. Go for it. Prosecute the cheaters.

Then let’s reform the system: make new expense rules in public, require tendering for purchases, demand receipts for everything and then publish every MLA’s expense report every month on the web.

With those—easy—changes in place, let’s finally turn our attention to the same auditor general’s report, which identifies a $52 million windfall private developers get to pocket from those infamous P-3 school projects. Now that’s scandalous!

  1. Unfortunately, tendering has its own problems and can result in a lot of sketchy spending as well. We need to look at the way budgeting is done in the first place, perhaps tying more funding to business plans rather than ‘finding a way to spend our $x worth of expense money so we don’t lose it.’

    I am also concerned that public perception could negatively influence innovation here. That fancy new piece of technology or shiny toy may seem exorbitant, but the real value may be drastically higher than its perceived value. I want our politicians to keep up with technological and social trends, and be perceived as ‘up-to-date’ when they go to other jurisdictions. I am also willing to see a little bit of perceived ‘waste’ to meet this need.


  2. you are so ver correct, the P3 schools need to be investigated for sure and have been forgoten
    about, someone needs to remind NDP to investigate the P3!!!!!!!


  3. RT@skimber The P3 Schools controversy has been overlooked amidst the MLA expenses backlash. Thanks for tweaking local media “group think.”


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