Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Time to call the Public Inquiry


The CBC report this evening puts the last week's events into perspective and lays it out pretty clearly: there have been (and probably continue to be) fundamental problems in the financial administration in the House of Assembly.

Recent revelations outline two distinct scams. One is exemplified by the tale of Ed Byrne, and three other MHA's, of gross constituency allowance overpayments.

The second is the apparent cozy relationship between Bill Murray, former Director of Finance, and 4 suppliers, one of them his own firm. He apparently funneling huge sums of money into those shops with little or no checks, balances or documentation. Time will tell who profited from this.

The total so far is $4 million and counting.

When I hear stories of enough pins, keychains and fridge magnets for every man, woman and child in the province, I can't help but think of Gomery and the famous Chretien golf balls.

While Premier Williams has been fast out of the gate in responding to the media problem of the day (ie. sending in a judge to look at MHA compensation) it's all too clear that he needs to take more circumspective action. Craig Wescott may characterize this insta-response as decisive, and I'm sure many people see it that way, but this kind of piecemeal reaction misses the big picture.

Part of the problem is that the bigger picture is not out yet but, from all reports, MHA compensation and the constituency allowance is but a part of it.

The overall effect of these revelations is to bring all MHA's, all parties and government itself into disrepute; the province needs to initiate a process of comprehensive rehabilitation.

It's worthwhile to note this following passage from the Public Inquiries Act:

2. (1) Where the Lieutenant-Governor in Council considers it expedient to make an inquiry into a matter connected with the peace, order and good government of this province, or the conduct of a part of the public business, or the administration of justice, or into the industries of this province, or into other matters which he or she considers to be for the public good, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council may by Commission under the Great Seal appoint the person or persons, called the commissioner or commissioners, that he or she may select to hold the inquiry. (added emphasis mine)
I can't think of an issue which impinges more on the peace, order and good government of this province, or the conduct of a part of the public business than this.

Premier Williams, it's time to call the public inquiry and let the chips fall where they may.

(See Bond Papers for differing reasoning but similar conclusion.)

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