Critics skeptical changes to rules will fix municipal spending scandals

Critics skeptical changes to rules will fix municipal spending scandals

Some critics of municipal spending are not convinced proposed changes to Nova Scotia's Municipal Government Act go far enough.

After CBC News investigated municipal expenses in Richmond and Guysborough counties, among others, the minister for municipal affairs set up a joint committee to recommend changes.  

If approved, the changes would:

- prevent municipal officials from claiming alcohol as an expense

- require all expense claims from municipal politicians and CAOs to be posted online

- create at least one citizen member of a municipality's audit committee

Legislation is expected this spring. 

Susanne Roy has been digging into the expenses of Guysborough and would love to sit on an audit committee, but is skeptical of the process.

"Who gets to pick the public members?" asked Roy. "If it is council, are they picking friends or family members that will go along with whatever they're doing?"

Germaine MacDonald helped expose the spending scandal in Richmond County. MacDonald now sits on Richmond's audit committee and says Richmond is leading the way when it comes to citizen involvement. 

No municipal auditor this spring

But she worries the new policies will not be enforced by the municipal affairs department. She thinks municipalities need the oversight of an independent municipal auditor general.  

"Given the waste of our tax dollars to date, is anybody getting the figures for what it would actually cost?"

On Wednesday Kellianne Dean, the deputy minister of municipal affairs, told a public accounts committee a municipal auditor general is still being considered, but Dean does not expect it to be part of this spring's proposed changes.

"It was difficult to determine how that would work, given the number of municipalities and one auditor general," Dean said.

There are also questions over how the office would be paid for.