Communities and Cultural Affairs Minister Carolyn Bertram came under fire Thursday for spending a large sum of taxpayers' money to renovate her office.
During question period Thursday, Opposition MLA Mike Currie accused Bertram of lavish overspending with a recent $225,000 expenditure to fix up her office, located in the Shaw Building in Charlottetown.
"I'm just wondering if you're prepared to stand up now and admit that you went way overboard on this time of recession and these expenditures on your office," Currie said.
Bertram denied Currie's accusation that she hired an interior decorator and overspent on her office facelift. She said the renovations were necessary due to the fact her department had before been split, since many department offices had been housed alongside the Justice Department.
"We were under the legal service section of attorney general, we were under lock and key basically, and we were away from our staff," Bertram said. "Now we are all on the north wing. I don't know why the honourable member is talking about this lavish - he should come down and take a look at what has actually happened."
The Transportation and Public Works Department, which is responsible for all government buildings, paid for about $69,000 of the renovations, Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley told The Guardian Wednesday. The remaining $156,000 was paid out of Bertram's department budget.
Later Thursday night, Opposition MLA Jim Bagnall questioned Bertram further on the issue, asking about the murals and paintings now hanging on her walls. He also asked about the wall detailing and the furniture.
Bertram responded that she did not buy new furniture. But she did admit to buying paintings, including one mural for $3,500. But she said this was done to support local artists.
"There are other pieces, but they are all Island art. We are supporting our Island artists."
But Currie believes spending so much on paintings and office renovations at a time when government is asking departments to tighten their belts is a waste of money.
"I think when Islanders see a minister with that kind of extravagance, surrounding herself with comforts when some people had a tough time paying their light bills this winter and a tough time filling their oil tanks, they see that the priorities of this government are not to look out for hardworking Islanders," Currie said.
"They're making sure that the comforts of cabinet ministers are well looked after."