I have two thoughts, which is probably some kind of record for me:
1) I’m not surprised to find out that after 140+ years of corruption, our distinguished honourable local MLAs have some problem controlling their impulses when presented with a $45,000 receipt-free expense account, and no real guidelines on how to (or if to) spend that money. That’s not to absolve anyone from their own stupidity. Conservative Richard Hurlburt’s hilarity over putting a generator in his home for the greater good of the community was, frankly, inspired. It was the gift that kept on giving, as emergency workers and retirees alike pointed out that they had know idea that an emergency generator was supposedly available for their use. Comedy gold. NDP leader Darrell Dexter’s use of the funds to pay his lawyerly association fees were equally misguided, given that as an MLA he’s not a practicing lawyer and has no need to keep up his credentials, let alone expect us to pay for such frivolity. Expensing the $250 fee to remain an associate member of the bar would have been sufficient and legitimate…paying $3000 to remain a full-on lawyer was a serious lapse in judgement. And who knows what Liberal Dave Wilson did, considering that he’s refusing to speak to anyone but his lawyer. When the story comes out on Wilson’s resignation, it’s gonna be a big ‘un, me thinks. Much popcorn will be needed. (I do hope the Wilson revelations don’t turn into a Capone’s-vault moment).
Anyway – my first thought on the MLA spending scandal is “I’m not surprised”. Nova Scotia politicians have been corrupt for 140 years. Cousins routinely get paving contracts. Political contributors get dibs on the shares when crown corporations are privatized. P3 contracts often end up in the hands of those with connections to politicos. Par for the course in this corrupt little backwater. Frankly, $45,000/MLA is small potatoes compared to the millions and millions that have been stolen from the public in this province since confederation.
My second thought is this: The Liberals are seeking to use this scandal to damage the standing of the NDP. This is legitimate, of course, because the MLAs from all three parties were spending this money like they’d just won the lottery. However, this culture of corruption grew, matured, and festered under the aforementioned 140+ years of liberal/conservative power. Dexter’s government is the first to do anything about it, and coincidentally (?) the first non-Liberal/PC provincial government we’ve had. Truth be told, Liberal leader MacNeil’s attack on the NDP for expense irregularities basically charges the NDP with being just as corrupt as the PCs and the Liberals.
Think about that for a minute. And then have a good chuckle, or a good cry if you actually care about governance in this province. But, honestly, the NDP haven’t come close to the staggering levels of corruption of the other two main parties. Give them time, and probably they will end up just as corrupt, but MacNeil is being a bit premature trying to drag them down to his level so quickly.