Liberal MLA nixes suggestion to take legislative committee to rural P.E.I.

Wayne Thibodeau
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Steven Myers, chairman of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and committee vice-chair Buck Watts listen during a discussion on taking the public accounts committee on the road during a meeting in Charlottetown on Thursday.

A committee of P.E.I. MLAs tasked with being the financial watchdog for the province wants to take its show on the road but a Liberal MLA is not sure he wants to venture into rural Prince Edward Island.

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts discussed holding meetings throughout rural P.E.I. in February and March. Proposed locations included Souris, Georgetown, Tignish, Tyne Valley, Belfast and Montague.

Opposition Leader Olive Crane says taking the public accounts committee on the road would allow all Islanders to get a better understanding of how the committee works.

More importantly, she added, it will help residents understand the province's spending priorities.

"I support the idea of taking public accounts out to communities across P.E.I.," said the Progressive Conservative leader.

"I think it's a great way to show government is connected to all Islanders and communities across P.E.I."

The public accounts committee usually meets at the Coles Building, adjacent to Province House in Charlottetown.

Buck Watts, Liberal MLA for Tracadie-Hillsborough Park, suggested the committee meet only in Summerside.

"I don't know about traveling to all those places," said Watts.

"We'll go to Summerside. Have one there and then we'll see how the attendance is there."

The committee also suggested having two meetings a day to save money.

That would mean the committee would meet in Souris in the afternoon and in Georgetown in the evening.

Watts didn't like that idea either.

"I'm not really in favour of having two meetings in one day."

The next public accounts committee meeting will be held in Charlottetown.

The committee will hear from former Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy.

Murphy chaired the powerful public accounts committee in Ottawa.

Murphy has also been critical of how P.E.I.'s public accounts committee operates, saying as far as he knows the Island's public accounts committee is the only one in Canada that does not allow deputy ministers to appear.

Murphy, a Liberal, said it would be far more effective for the committee to hear from deputy ministers - a position Crane has been pushing since being elected.

"I don't know about traveling to all those places," Buck Watts, Liberal MLA for Tracadie-Hillsborough Park

"The deputies are responsible for administration and that normally would be the focus of the public accounts committee," Murphy said in 2009.

There is nothing in P.E.I.'s rules that stop a deputy minister from appearing.

The rules state a majority of MLAs must approve of a witness appearing before the committee.

In the past, government MLAs of both political stripes have refused to allow most deputy ministers from attending.

Crane wants the word "majority" removed from the rules so deputy ministers can appear without the partisan battles of the past.

The public accounts committee is also going to look at live streaming and maybe even broadcasting committee hearings.

It was looked at in 2009 but scrapped because it would have been too expensive.

Gerard Greenan, Liberal MLA for Summerside-St. Eleanors, suggested the idea, which was supported by the Opposition Conservatives.

"We should look at live streaming this so that no matter where you are you can watch," said Greenan.



While it is the norm to broadcast full Assembly proceedings, the practice of broadcasting committee proceedings varies across the provinces and territories:

– No broadcasting: Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island.

– Audio broadcasting on website: Alberta, British Columbia*, New Brunswick, Yukon*.

– Video broadcasting on website: Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia (Public Accounts Committee only),Newfoundland and Labrador (House of Assembly Management Commission only)

*Some exceptions apply


Organizations: Islanders, Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Coles Building Province House Opposition Conservatives

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Georgetown, Summerside Charlottetown Tignish Tyne Valley Belfast Tracadie-Hillsborough Park Ottawa Canada

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Recent comments

  • Ed Gallant
    January 21, 2012 - 09:02

    Tell Buck Watts and his cronies that if they want to travel to rural communities with their public accounts committee and save money, that they should use Charlottetown transit, that way they wouldn't need a bus driver, in fact, they could take two buses sans drivers.

  • Gerry
    January 20, 2012 - 10:07

    I would gauge the expected rural response based on how many people are in attendance now. Are we talking single, double or triple digits? The current government doesn't act in the best interest of taxpayers now, so why would anyone believe their physical appearance in various communities across the Island will make a difference in how they spend our money? Our voices are not being heard regardless.

  • I M Wondering
    January 20, 2012 - 09:42

    I read this article twice. If I get it right, the public accounts committee is supposed to be the vehicle that makes the deputy ministers show that they are 'accountable' (read doing their job well and respecting the taxpayers' dollars with reasonable spending). In other words, this committee is the watchdog for all of us who pay taxes. They hold their meetings without deputy ministers present...hmmm. The committee doesn't want to take 'the show on the road' because it would cost too much. As stated by many commenters here, you can get anywhere on PEI in less than 2 hours. Bring the government to the people. It is as far from Souris to Charlottetown as it is from Charlottetown to Souris. Just a does one get to attend the meetings and when are they held? Anyone?

  • Twiggy
    January 20, 2012 - 08:28

    The Liberals in this province are the opposite of progressive. It is shameful to have a government in this day and age that will not have deputy ministers explain in detail how government spends our resources. It is so backward that it is beyond belief.

    • Ed
      January 20, 2012 - 11:26

      It's not just a Liberal thing, the Conservatives when in power didn't allow it either. It's easy being in opposition, you just oppose everything the Govt wants to do and if you get in power, the first thing you forget is everything that you opposed, as well as all promises.That is the slime of politics.

  • statler
    January 20, 2012 - 08:25

    traveling to all those places,get a grip two hours from ch town will put you in pertty much any place on the island, and another thing as for two meetings a day why not do what you were elected for, two meetings a day here and there for a few weeks wouldn't kill you surely you could spare a couple days a week to meet with the people of pei !!

  • mej
    January 20, 2012 - 08:18

    Oh great they want to take the show on the road now so that we as taxpayers can pay their travel allowances!! Did we not elect our MLA's to represent us? I don't think we need to attend the committee meetings thats what the minutes are for.

    • Ed
      January 20, 2012 - 11:20

      MEJ It's a little hard and a little late to make your views known once you have the minutes in your hand.

  • Person
    January 20, 2012 - 07:47

    This is the peoples account committee.They should do what is necessary to get the spending truth to the people.Hide and seek should not be part of this .The Liberal way to hide the truth must not be allowed.

  • Ron
    January 20, 2012 - 07:19

    Said it before and will say it again. The Ghiz goverment don't give a hoot what the folks in Rural PEI think. There for the big city of Charlottetown only.

  • Garth Staples
    January 20, 2012 - 07:16

    What have the Liberals got to lose? What have the people got to gain? If Buck finds travelling difficult to 'all those places' why does he expect the people would find it easier to drive to Charlottetown? The actions of the GRITs is a blight on democracy.

  • Buck has no say
    January 20, 2012 - 07:13

    As with all Liberal MLA's, Buck is just hanging from a string awaiting his instructions from the puppetmaster. They do as they're told in hopes of getting the pension. They represent their own interests first and foremost.

  • charlie brown
    January 20, 2012 - 06:16

    Poor buck,doesn't like much from the sound of him. Me,i don't like the thought of having to pay his salary or pension but i do.Someone tell him to "buck"up and be a man about this.

  • distance matters
    January 20, 2012 - 06:07

    Oh man, did I ever laugh at this article !! PEI is soooooo tiny! Charlottetown is almost in the middle of this island so it's only 150 km from North Cape to Charlottetown and only 100 km from East Point into Charlottetown. By comparison, it's 270 km from Edmundston, NB to Fredericton, NB. It's 300 km from Yarmouth to Halifax and 400 km from Sydney to Halifax. If you live in Calgary and want to see their legislature in operation, you drive 300 km to Edmonton. People DRIVE to where the legislature is. In this day and age of fiscal restraint, do you honestly think that wasting all this money to take this pathetic little committee for a pathetic little legislature in a pathetic little impoverished province on the road is really worth it ?????? Think about it a little more before you go wasting tax dollars (again). One certain thing about PEI, they certainly aren't shy about spending the tax dollars of other Canadians to cater to a declining rural population. Asphalt, PNP, wasteful rural hospitals, beef plants, fish plants, crab fishermen, etc. What a wasteful and fiscally irresponsible and morally corrupt little province.

  • Buck Watts is my MLA
    January 19, 2012 - 22:15

    This is pretty unfortunate the Buck Watts does not like the idea of going to Rural PEI even moreso that he represents a riding of an urban/rural mix.

    • real canadian
      January 20, 2012 - 06:57

      You cant expest Buck to want more than one meeting a day or to have them all over the island remember he was a fisherman so he is used to being done work and at home by noon

  • Really Buck
    January 19, 2012 - 21:38

    I can't believe what I'm hearing from Buck Watts-what a joke-God Forbid some of the Liberal MLAS had to travel to Tignish or Souris-your supposed to represent all Islanders-the Liberals only seem to worry about Charlottetown.