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MLA Expense Accounts: Fish in a Media Barrel

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Elected officials beware! Provincial media gleefully reported another case of financial improprietyinvolving members of the legislature today, this time aimed squarely at the party in power. The NDP were given a $10,000 fine for accepting a total of $45,000 in union donations that went against electoral rules.

The Chronicle-Herald article on the subject noted that “MLAs are still dealing with the fallout” of the auditor-general’s report released on February 3rd, in which a number of expenses were deemed inappropriate or excessive.

As Tim Bousquet has aptly pointed out in The Coast, however, the same report that named $73,527 to have been mis-spent over 3 years noted that $52 million  - 723 times as much as the MLAs’ inappropriate expenses – has been lost or mismanaged since 1998 through public-private partnership (P3) schools in the province. (No one but CUPE seems to be saying much about P3 schools, though lots of media still seem fixated on Darrell Dexter’s briefcase.) Bruce Wark chimed in and compared the extent of the spending on office furniture and gadgets to tax breaks given to military-industrial arms dealer Lockheed Martin (a total of $1.8 million in 2009).

Of course, it could also be topical to compare the MLAs’ spending to Nova Scotians’ share of thesecurity costs of the Winter Olympics, nearly $1-billion, which is completely covered by the federal government. This despite the fact that 83 per cent of Vancouverites polled believe that “the Games are planned to benefit elite members of society” and nearly “60 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement that the Vancouver Olympics are a waste of money that could be used for more important things.”

If mainstream media pointed its guns away from the fish-in-a-barrel story of MLA expense accounts and took a deeper, critical, and more contextualized look at how government spends its money, Nova Scotians might have a bit more to get upset about.


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