Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't go back to sleep

A milestone of sorts was reached today: the first ever open and public meeting of the successor committee of the House of Assembly Internal Economies Commission (IEC).

Outside of a few House of Assembly wonks, nobody had ever heard of the IEC. It was the rare member of the public or even media could tell you what it was and what it did. And as hard as it is to believe, even most MHAs were largely ignorant of IEC operations.

But as the center of the House of Assembly spending scandals, the dispenser of secret $2800 payments to MHAs and the committee which set the rules (such as they were) which for years permitted MHAs spend public money for private political purposes it was a critical part of the legislative/political system.

Now everyone has heard of it.

When politicians tell you that open meetings of the IEC are the beginning of a new era and marks the end of the bad old ways, don't take that too seriously.

Remember that much of the spending shenanigans were not directed by the IEC in isolation and away from the light. Much of the mess was organized in close partnership with the full House of Assembly in open and free votes in front of media representatives and televised across the province.

And just when you thought we were out of the dark times and into the new era of accountability, openness and transparency, this government and the entire House in general lets us down.

It was only in the last few months that Minister Rideout proudly trumpeted new rules for MHA spending. Only after the fact did we realize we were hoodwinked and that no rules would be in place until after the election.

We were misled about what was happening through a series of amendments delaying implementation which threw up so much smoke and mirrors that even the media watching from the galleries had no idea what was happening. More than a few voting MHAs were taken by surprise when they were later advised of what they had voted for.

An open and televised vote in the House, observed by the media, fooled us all. What's the lesson to take from this? That just because the new IEC meetings are public does not eliminate the possibility that they can pull the wool over our eyes.

So when they tell you to go back to sleep and everything is OK, don't. It means we have to watch what they do and scrutinise them more closely than ever.

No comments: