10/17/2014 04:05 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST

Saskatchewan government plans democracy museum

REGINA - Saskatchewan's Opposition leader is criticizing the government's plans for a museum of democracy, calling it a "shiny pet project."

New Democrat Cam Broten said there are currently museums that could serve the same function but they are short on resources.

"To me it's absolutely a head-scratcher, mind-boggling, why we would need a museum of politics here in the province," he said Friday.

"Why this would be a serious priority for this government in the face of serious health questions people have, in the face of education questions, to me is a strange one."

The criticism was sparked by a job description for a special adviser, which included work to "conceptualize and develop a proposal for the development of the Saskatchewan Museum of Democracy to be housed in the Territorial Building."

The project falls under the portfolio of Rick Mantey, who is to advise the deputy minister of Parks, Culture and Sport.

Mantey was involved in a controversy over ministerial travel expenses earlier this year when he was clerk of the executive council and cabinet secretary.

He had booked car services last year for two ministers in London that cost thousands of dollars and also accompanied the ministers on their trips.

When Mantey was removed from his post, a written statement from Premier Brad Wall said Mantey served the government well over the last 6 1/2 years, but that some of the expenditure decisions were disappointing.

Broten said if the museum is not a top priority for the government, "then they need to explain why they're paying Mr. Mantey $177,000 a year to be working on this as his main project."

Other duties listed in Mantey's job description included developing a proposal for the office of the provincial historian, advising on projects related to Government House as well as advising on the celebrations for Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017.

Lin Gallagher, deputy minister for Parks, Culture and Sport, said plans for the museum are in the early stages.

"One of our goals is to find a repurpose for the (Territorial) Building and this was one idea that was put forward, so we'll explore the merits of the concept," she said.

There is no budget yet for the project, she added.

"It is using a staff person to do some preliminary research and then we'll go from there."

Gallagher said the museum would offer an opportunity to celebrate the province's history and it's possible the museum would be virtual and would not have a physical space.

Government spokeswoman Kathy Young compared the project to the Australian Museum of Democracy, which says on its website that it brings alive the importance of parliament for the public.

Young said the province has always been a hotbed of political ideas and the museum would include information on both the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and New Democrats.