POLITICS

Nova Scotia government votes against motion to examine erroneous deficit figure

04/23/2013 12:22 EDT | Updated 06/23/2013 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's NDP government defeated a Liberal motion Tuesday to send former finance minister Graham Steele's handling of an erroneous deficit figure in last spring's budget to an internal committee of the legislature.

The legislature voted against the Opposition motion by a recorded vote of 25-21, although New Democrat Michele Raymond broke ranks and voted with the opposition parties.

Raymond told the legislature she believes the house should allow an internal affairs committee to look into what happened.

"We must, for the integrity of the house, consider this matter within the house first," she said.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the vote was an indication the government wanted the issue to go away.

"It simply is the government using its majority to prevent Nova Scotians from actually getting a clearer indication of what the former finance minister did," McNeil said.

Deputy premier Frank Corbett said Raymond will not be disciplined, adding that as far as he was concerned, the matter is settled.

"(Steele) has told you clearly that he never intended in any way, shape or form to mislead the house," said Corbett.

Steele, who wasn't present for the vote, has dismissed allegations he misled the legislature when he delivered a budget last year that overstated revenue estimates by $27 million. He said he presented budget estimates that were established before a cut-off date of March 1, 2012.

The vote on the motion Tuesday came after Speaker Gordie Gosse ruled in response to a March 27 point of privilege raised by McNeil, saying he had a "technically arguable case" that could be considered by a legislature committee.

Gosse said his decision was in no way a suggestion that Steele had deliberately misled the house.

In a report released in February, auditor general Jacques Lapointe said the government delivered a deficit forecast in its 2012-13 budget of $211 million when it was aware the actual figure was $238 million.