Accounts committee remains at impasse

After a relatively quiet meeting on mental health, the province’sPublic Accounts committee once again spiralled into bickering yesterday.

After a relatively quiet meeting on mental health, the province’s Public Accounts committee once again spiralled into bickering yesterday.

The committee convened yesterday morning to discuss the findings of Auditor General Jacques Lapointe’s audit into mental health care services. After two hours of questioning bureaucrats from the Department of Health, the committee turned to agenda matters.

But when Cape Breton North MLA Cecil Clarke attempted to read a letter from committee chair Diana Whalen into record, things became heated.

The letter, addressed to Speaker Charlie Parker, detailed grievances stemming from a June 9 meeting in which a surprise NDP motion cancelled testimonies from Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation executives scheduled for the following week.

“This is clearly a case where the work of the legislature is being obstructed,” read Clarke, who stormed out of the June 9 meeting in protest. “This is an affront to the efficiency and effectiveness of the House of Assembly ... it has diminished the intended scope and power of this committee.”

Clarke then brought forward a motion to formalize what he called an informal consensus between the three party leaders, who met Tuesday in hopes of resolving the Public Accounts impasse.

Clarke’s motion would re-establish the subcommittee responsible for setting Public Accounts agenda, as well as prohibit voting to change the agenda without a consensus of the entire committee.

But the NDP’s Leonard Preyra, deputy chair of the committee, said no parliamentary system would allow a subcommittee to dictate the agenda of a committee.

Any item that’s recommended by a subcommittee is just that: A recommendation, said Preyra. There’s no agreement in the world that can change that ... it is a well-established principle of parliamentary government, he said.

After almost an hour of back and forth, Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott made a motion to adjourn, putting the committee almost exactly where it was two weeks ago.

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