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Liberals blast provincial government's travel budget

The provincial Liberals said yesterday the Rodney MacDonald governmentshould cut its “bloated” travel budget before raising charges on NovaScotians.

The provincial Liberals said yesterday the Rodney MacDonald government should cut its “bloated” travel budget before raising charges on Nova Scotians.

The Tories’ travel budget grew by 40 per cent from 2004 to 2008, according to public accounts documents. Last year the province spent $27.7 million on travel – about $8 million more than four years earlier.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil criticized the Tories for raising user fees across the province last week -- for a total of $5.2 million -- when that money could have been saved from the travel budget.

“Perhaps the premier should look at rolling back his own government’s travel costs before nickel and dimeing Nova Scotians with increases across the board,” McNeil said.

McNeil added he has no problem with government travelling, but there’s been no economic growth to justify a 40 per cent increase in costs.

But Deputy Premier Angus MacIsaac hit back that the increases were justified for the same reasons opposition party leaders had their travel budgets doubled since 2007.

“Obviously they’ve needed more money to do their job," MacIsaac said. "The same justification holds (that) employees of government are going to have additional costs."

Travel costs consist of mileage, airfare, accommodation and other expenses. Higher gas prices upped car and plane costs but other prices have jumped as well.

In 2004 the government gave staffers an allowance of $7 for lunch and $13.50 for supper. Employees now get $12 to spend on lunch and $20 for supper.

“We (ministers) OK all out of province travel," MacIsaac said. "That has to be justified. In recent months we’re looking at that even more closely than we have in the past."

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