POLITICS

Cam Broten, Saskatchewan NDP Leader, Claims Threats Made To Silence Questions Over Expenses

04/09/2014 06:15 EDT | Updated 06/09/2014 05:59 EDT
CP
REGINA - The Opposition NDP is calling for the provincial auditor to investigate travel costs by Saskatchewan cabinet ministers and the cabinet secretary.

NDP Leader Cam Broten says the review could look at the money spent and policies for travel.

"Let's have an independent voice, a completely non-partisan voice look at what has happened, look at the current expense scandal that we have on our hands and give some clear recommendations," Broten said Wednesday.

However, Central Services Minister Nancy Heppner says the government has changed the policy to make travel costs public going forward.

Premier Brad Wall said Monday that reports for out-of-province travel will be posted semi-annually starting with this fiscal year, so the expenses for the period from April to September will be posted in October.

"I do believe that the process that the premier talked about earlier this week on disclosure of travel is an appropriate response to the situation that we saw," said Heppner.

"It's going to offer transparency and accountability and I'm personally satisfied with that. People of this province will be able to see where, why we're going, what we're spending money on."

Expenses have been under scrutiny since it came to light that Social Services Minister June Draude used a car service in London that cost $3,600 over four days and spent $200 on lunch with a friend.

It was also revealed Monday that Finance Minister Ken Krawetz spent about $3,300 on the same car service in London last June.

All of those expenses were filed by Rick Mantey, cabinet secretary and clerk of executive council, who booked the car and accompanied Draude and Krawetz on their trips. The ministers have said they weren't aware of the costs until the NDP released documents it got through a freedom-of-information request detailing Draude's trip.

Draude acknowledged using the car for some personal time, while Krawetz said the car was expensed for a day when he didn't even have meetings.

Mantey has repaid the car costs and the lunch. He has also been placed on probation for six months.

Heppner retaliated Wednesday by suggesting former NDP premier Lorne Calvert and industry minister Eric Cline may have misused taxpayers money on a trip to Paris in 2006.

She says they spent $1,900 on a car service for five meetings over three days.

"We bring that up as, I guess, a contrast to their accusations against the car service that was used by two of our ministers in London, a car service that upon reflection was not required. They probably could have gotten to their meetings by cabs, which is why the money has been repaid," she said.

Broten says a busy schedule can warrant using a car service. He says details published at the time of 2006 trip show 10 meetings took place.

The NDP leader also claims there have also been threats from the government to stop asking questions about the expenses. Broten says the government house leader made comments to the NDP house leader and government members have been calling past legislators. He says they specifically mentioned Betty Calvert, the former's premier wife.

"That's how sad and how pathetic the attempts have been by this government to deflect from the current crisis on their hands ... so I say let the auditor do their work," he said.

The government says there were no threats. It says house leader Jeremy Harrison had what is described as a courtesy conversation with NDP house leader Warren McCall to let them know the government has questions about past NDP trips.

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