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WAYNE CARVER: Collusion of first order?

The offices of attorney general and premier should be kept separate - Wayne Carver.
The offices of attorney general and premier should be kept separate - Wayne Carver. - FILE

Reluctance by government to allow public servants of account to appear before committees

Like many Islanders I am concerned with the last minute attempt to block the appearance of Mark Gallant from the Public Trustee Office before the auditor general’s legislative committee. We have seen reluctance from this government to allow public servants of account to appear before such committees time and again. Where they are unable to prevent such an appearance through the mathematical game, they will go to the point of embarrassing themselves beyond belief.

is not like it was yesterday that it was decided Mark Gallant should appear before the committee. For him to be suddenly appointed as the acting prothonotary in the Supreme Court of P.E.I., days before the scheduled appearance before committee, smells of collusion of the first order. And yes, it could be argued that it was simply an oversight.

It would be a weak and silly argument because those involved in the appointment process are about the only ones who have forgotten. It is imperative that Islanders know what is at stake here. Has the office of the Public Trustee been vulnerable to mismanagement and/or abuse? Has there been a disservice to the citizens of this province? Have the funds been used for other unintended purposes, much like the pension funds of employees in other sectors who recently learned their pension fund are gone?

Taxpayers would like to see a full forensic investigation conducted of the Public Trustees Office for it has become another of several embarrassingly irregular government activities all to familiar to Islanders. Incidents such as the PNP, e-gaming, GMO salmon, the Water Act to name a few. Incidents where the public interest is ignored or over ridden for some unknown political reason. But for that to happen the attorney general of the province would have to call for an investigation. Since the attorney general is also the premier, the head of our small government, that is not likely to happen.

This appointment, at this time, smells to the high heavens. It appears to be an attempt to avoid any accountability or disclosure that would embarrass our elected officials and nothing more. The welfare of those impacted does not seem to be at issue at all.

There is recourse still available here; one avenue being to rescind the appointment until after Mr. Gallant makes his appearance before the committee. Had this been done in the first place, there would not be near as much concern. Conversely, by taking the action they have taken, government has raised the matter to a level where the citizen wonders what is really going on here?

Some may say that for the premier to be the attorney general is not new and yes the premier is a lawyer and that is why he took that portfolio. Hence all is well. It is also argued that for the premier to be the attorney general is an abuse of power. For one person to be the first minister, the province's lawmaker and attorney general, the chief law enforcement officer, effectively makes the democratic system we cherish and support, a farce.

Before the citizens of this province can enjoy any semblance of a democracy, the office of the solicitor general must be separated from the political process and become an office of the legislative assembly, similar to that of the auditor general.

The attorney general should be appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council based on the recommendation of the elected members of the assembly. The attorney general may be chosen from any political party represented in the assembly and should report directly to the Assembly, not the first minister.

Maybe then the public will enjoy the assurance of greater accountability without the ruling party’s manipulation of government committees and members of the assembly.

- Wayne Carver Long Creek is a supporter of electoral reform and comments frequently on social issues

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