The Yukon’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts must be fixed.
The legislative committee investigates government spending. It has the power to summon witnesses and to question them.
It is a check on the power of government.
It is broken.
Currently there are seven seats on the committee. The government has four, the Liberals two and the NDP one.
Because of the way it is structured, the government determines what issues the committee can examine, and what it can’t.
As a result, issues such as the government’s decision to invest $36.5 million in asset-backed commercial paper, which has so far cost the territory hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost interest, cannot be probed.
It should be.
But the existing committee gives the government the power to determine what is examined.
That is not in the public’s interest.
Parliamentary democracy already hands a lot of power to a majority government. Such a government needs more checks and balances, not fewer.
The current committee structure prevents the opposition from asking the questions it needs to figure out what happened, and to stop such things from happening in the future.
Fixing the committee to bolster accountability in public spending would be easy.
But the government has no desire to do it.
It argues the old structure worked. But the old structure chugged along only until a grievous loss of public money occurred.
As soon as the government’s wayward investment was revealed, the committee’s ability to investigate was blocked by the government members.
That highly partisan decision revealed the committee’s flaw.
Now the government is opposing a simple fix.
Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell, who resigned as chair in protest, wants the committee restructured.
He wants another New Democrat seat added, and a government seat removed. That would place the committee in opposition control.
It would force the government to be more careful and accountable to the public.
And that can only be a good thing for the territory and its citizens.
But the government doesn’t support the fix.
This raises troubling questions about the way the government conducts its business.
And it also provides the best reason why the committee should be restructured immediately.