Liberals say the NDP have broken their campaign promise to cut down on outside consultants, but the government says it plans to slash $14 million of consultation costs this year.
The row was kicked off during question period when Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil tried to paint the NDP as hypocrites for abandoning their election promise to save money on doing fewer consultations.
McNeil pointed to a Deloitte finance report, rural ER review and recent auto insurance review as a few examples.
McNeil asked for a total cost to analyze whether it’s been worth it.
“They said during the election they would not be hiring outside consultants, they have been. We’re just simply asking the question of how much it costs,” McNeil said.
Finance Minister Graham Steele denied his party ever claimed it would cut out consultations completely.
“What do they expect us to do? These are big, important decisions and we get the best professional advice that we can. What do they want us to go on, our gut feeling?” said Steele.
“What is surprising to me is how many big, important decisions the previous government appears to have made just based on the back of an envelope.”
Because consultations don’t fall under one neat budget line item, government staff say it’s difficult to calculate how much the province spends each year on outside consulting firms.
It’s safe to say the amount is in the hundreds of millions.
When Steele asked for departments to plan to cut spending by one per cent, many slashed consultants first to the overall tune of $4 million.
Staff say the treasury board has decreed $10 million on top of that will be cut over this fiscal year, and have instituted tighter rules on getting consultant contracts confirmed in order to enforce that.