Nova Scotia committee that oversees public spending granted more oversight powers

·2 min read

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia's Progressive Conservatives have fulfilled a campaign promise by returning the oversight powers to a legislative committee that reviews public spending.

The all-party public accounts committee adopted a motion unanimously today that will see it return to weekly meetings and allow it to call witnesses on a range of topics at its discretion.

The motion fulfils a campaign promise by Tory Leader Tim Houston and rescinds changes adopted in 2018 and 2019 by the Liberals, which restricted proceedings to monthly meetings that were limited to reviewing auditor general reports.

Nova Scotia's public accounts committee is mandated to oversee government spending and review reports from the province's auditor general and any other financial matters in relation to public funds.

Composed of nine people, the committee is chaired by the Opposition Liberals, who have one other member, and consists of two members from the NDP and five from the governing Tories.

Nolan Young, a Tory and committee vice chair, said today that returning the oversight powers to the committee is another way for the government to be held accountable.

"A strong public accounts committee is a tool for a stronger democracy," Young told reporters. "There will be tough questions but that's the opposition's role … to hold government and spending to account."

NDP member Claudia Chender called the changes a positive development that appear to have returned the committee to its "former stature."

"We are pleased the limiting motions put forward by the Liberal government have been rescinded," Chender said.

Liberal member Brendan Maguire downplayed the notion that the previous government had taken away the committee's power. He said the Liberals formed another committee to oversee health spending, which takes up nearly half the budget.

Still, Maguire said his party supports the changes to public accounts.

"The more we can meet on this stuff the better," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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