Diana French talks government misspending this week. (Black Press Media files)

Columns: French Connection, legislative suspensions after misspending

Diana French asks some hard questions after legislative suspensions last month

When two senior officers of the Legislature were suspended from work and escorted from the building by police last November, some media stars and Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson lashed out at the Speaker of the Legislature, Darryl Plecas, who initiated the move. They questioned his handling of the issue, his judgment, and motives. Mr. Wilkinson called him an “out-of-control” rogue. Last week when Mr. Plecas released a 76-page report documenting the reason for the suspensions (including gross misspending), the columnists changed their tune, calling the report a bombshell, the spending outrageous, etc. Mr. Wilkinson offered to help the government clean house.

The suspended officials, the Legislative clerk and the Sargent at Arms, deny any wrongdoing and will answer the allegations this week. Given that the “loosey goosey” system has few checks and balances, with the Clerk and the Speaker calling all the shots, maybe nobody broke any rules because there are no rules to break. The RCMP are investigating the whole affair so there may be more to come. For a report on the Plecas report, see Tom Fletcher’s column in the Tribune Jan. 27.

Previous Speakers apparently didn’t see anything amiss, neither did the MLAs nor the press gallery, even though former Auditor General John Doyle blew the whistle loudly on the deplorable lack of control over Legislative spending in 2009 and again five years later. Independent journalists also commented but nobody seemed to care.

The question is, do taxpayers care? I do. I’m not happy having a privileged few spend my money on goodies that benefit only themselves. Some think it’s okay because “everyone does it.” For once I agree with Mr. Wilkinson, let’s get things under control. If heads fall, so be it, and all the individuals who “misspent” money better pay it back.

Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian and book author.

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