Minister confident public will find his expenses justified after spending probe

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Minister confident public will find his expenses justified after spending probe

Natural Resources Minister Lloyd Hines, whose spending while the warden of the Municipality of the District of Guysborough is being investigated, says he's confident his constituents will see his expenses were appropriate.

The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman has completed a draft report of its investigation into spending by senior staff and elected officials in the eastern Nova Scotia community.

Those involved, including Hines, have received copies and have until mid-April to respond to the findings. Those responses may factor into what is ultimately included in the final report. It's not clear if that report will be released publicly.

Proud of his time in Guysborough

Asked about the draft report after Thursday's cabinet meeting, Hines was reluctant to go into details.

"At this point it's a confidential document so I'm not in a position to comment on it," he told reporters.

Asked if residents who will read the final report will conclude he used taxpayers' money prudently and fairly, Hines gave reporters a bit of political history. 

"I am so proud of the 25 years that I put into that municipality as a public servant in that area there, and in that period of time I ran in 11 elections," he said. "I won them all in that period and that municipality is in the best financial condition of any rural municipality in the province.

"Recently, in the 2012 election, though I wasn't there, all the incumbent councilors were returned. Four by acclamation, four by election. So I think the people have spoken on that matter."

Premier defends Hines

Asked again if residents would conclude he used their tax money prudently, he offered a shorter, sharper answer.

"Yes, I'm confident of that. Yes." He said he was "feeling great" about the draft report.

Hines's boss, Premier Stephen McNeil, came to his defence when asked about the report.

Despite not having read it, McNeil took comfort in the fact that when he was briefed on it no one suggested wrongdoing.

"If the ombudsman had suggested that there was anything that was breaking rules or the rules weren't being followed or was illegal, I would expect the ombudsman would send that to the appropriate authorities, to us, and it wasn't," he said.

"There's nothing brought to my attention that anything inappropriate was done in terms of breaking rules or anything else."