The provincial legislature’s flagship committee may grind to a halt after a Tory MLA stormed out of a meeting yesterday and plans a full-scale boycott.

Tory Cecil Clarke and two members of the Liberal party were livid after being outvoted by the NDP majority on Public Accounts, the legislature’s busiest and most high-profile MLA committee.

The surprise NDP motion cancelled a plan to have executives from the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation appear for questioning next week. The NDP said it was more urgent to discuss the findings of the recent auditor general’s report instead.

Opposition parties pleaded with the government to do both, especially since the committee had recently written a letter to Gaming Corporation executives chastising them for cancelling two appearances.

The NDP rejected that idea.

Clarke denounced the NDP for “neutering” the committee and walked out. He said he did not plan to return and would urge his whole party to boycott. The Liberals say they will consider a similar move.

“What we’ve seen is the government has basically said whatever we don’t like we’ll just move a motion, change the agenda, not participate,” Clarke told reporters.

“They don’t respect this institution. It’s interesting, how they would have felt (in) opposition themselves if the previous government would have acted in that manner.”

Liberal MLA Keith Colwell said he suspects the NDP is trying to dodge questions about a recent report on problem gambling it killed and refused to make public.

“If that’s going to happen, what’s the sense of having this committee?” said Colwell.
“This is outrageous. Absolutely outrageous.”

NDP MLA Leonard Preyra said it’s customary to deal immediately with the findings of auditor general’s reports, and the gaming discussion would occur later. He said it’s too difficult to hold two meetings in one day.

“It creates a huge problem in trying to address both issues in one sitting. It’s just a lot of work,” said Preyra.

He said the committee would not meet unless all three parties are present. He rejected a Liberal proposal to shift the balance of power to opposition parties.

Subpoena defeated
As expected, Darrell Dexter will not present himself to be grilled by the Public Accounts Committee. The NDP defeated a series of motions by Liberal Keith Colwell yesterday that would have subpoenaed business documents for the auditor general and brought Dexter in front of the committee for questioning.

The NDP said it’s not opposed to handing over documents to the auditor general, but it needs to pass new legislation first to avoid a conflict with cabinet confidentiality rules. A minor war of words was sparked when NDP MLA Leonard Preyra accused Colwell of grandstanding.