Politics

N.S. NDP ask house speaker to intervene on ‘heavy-handed changes’ by Liberals

Liberal government cut meeting times for legislative committee that oversees provincial spending

The Nova Scotia NDP is taking its fight over legislative committee rules to the speaker of the house of the assembly.

NDP house leader Claudia Chender is calling on speaker Kevin Murphy to turn against his own party and help restore the power of the legislative committee that oversees provincial spending.

In a letter sent to Murphy on Tuesday, Chender asked him to denounce the “recent heavy-handed changes being forced upon the committee structures of the Nova Scotia legislature.”

“It would be very unusual for the speaker to interfere with the business of the committee,” said Murphy in an interview. He said the standing committees are self-governing, and there’s no mandate in place that regulates how often they meet.

Both opposition parties have fought with the Liberal government over when and how committees will meet, and who will control meeting agendas

The latest battle is over the public accounts committee. The Liberals recently scrapped weekly meetings, opting for monthly meetings instead.

In the letter, Chender asked the speaker to do three things: commit to televising the health and public accounts standing committees, give full support toward the health committee meeting in the main legislative chamber, and urge his Liberal colleagues to reinstate weekly meetings for the public accounts committee.

Murphy is the Eastern Shore MLA for the Liberal party. As the house speaker, he has jurisdiction over all matters concerning the provincial legislature. He’s also the chair of the house of assembly management commission committee, which deals with financial matters within the legislature.

Chender said the impact of fewer public accounts meetings is huge.

“The public accounts committee serves this extremely important function which is to scrutinize the expenditure of public funds,” she said.

“It appears to me that what’s happening … is that essentially government wants to answer fewer questions and reduce transparency. Don’t use accessibility as a kind of ad-hoc excuse for doing that.”

The NDP has also objected to schedule changes for the health committee and the natural resources and economic development committee. In both cases, opposition members asked for bi-weekly committees meetings, but lost to the Liberal majority, who voted in favour of monthly meetings.