The Liberals orchestrated the destruction of the public accounts committee to score political points, says NDP leader Todd Hardy.
He also angrily denounced the Yukon Party.
It’s committee members blocked a public hearing on the frozen $36.5-million investment into third-party asset-backed commercial paper.
That spurred Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell and Liberal MLA Don Inverarity to resign from the committee last week in protest.
“You don’t sink the ship because you didn’t catch your fish,” said Hardy.
“That’s giving the Yukon Party exactly what it wants. Now there’s no oversight.”
Hardy is a former chair of the all-party committee, which is mandated to examine government spending by questioning senior officials.
Mitchell sacrificed the committee for his own political ends, said Hardy.
“Mitchell put (the auditor’s report) on the table knowing full well the Yukon Party would reject it so he could have that vote and quit the committee,” he said.
“That’s what I call a setup. Mitchell knew exactly what was going to happen and orchestrated this.”
The committee’s responsibilities are bigger than one issue, said Hardy.
Boards like the Yukon Housing Corporation and projects like the Watson Lake health facility, the new jail and the Thompson Centre still need spending investigations, he added.
The two parties ruined the chance to do that, said Hardy.
“(Mitchell) has jeopardized all the good work that can be done on behalf of the people of this territory,” he said.
“Now the departments, the boards don’t have to worry the Public Accounts Committee will come and question them.”
Canada’s auditor general Sheila Fraser ruled the government’s $36.5-million investment violated the Financial Administration Act.
She did not assign blame or suggest there was any malicious intent behind the now-frozen investment.
The future of the committee is more important than the $36.5 million, said Hardy.
“There’s another $900 million sitting out there that the public accounts committee will not look at,” said Hardy.
“It will not investigate any other spending mistakes, all over one issue. Are we doing our job, then?”
The committee should meet a minimum of four times each year, and legislation should be passed that guarantees all auditor general reports are discussed at public hearings, said Hardy.
In the past, the committee has investigated cost overruns of the Mayo-Dawson electrical line, Highways and Public Works misspending and government spending on the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
After 11 years of inactivity, the committee was reestablished in 2002. Hardy served as chair for the first three years.
The committee protects public money, said Hardy.
“It’s the single most important committee for the legislative assembly and the people of this territory,” he said.
Convincing a government to establish more critical oversight is difficult, and now all the hard work it took to setup the committee is lost, said Hardy.
He questions how serious the Liberal and Yukon Party MLAs are about keeping the committee functional.
The committee investigated the cost overruns of the Liberal-supervised Mayo-Dawson electrical line while the party had Pat Duncan on the committee.
She stepped aside while the committee voted to have a public hearing.
“We did that without breaking apart,” said Hardy.
“It was a difficult situation for the Liberal member at the time.”
As committee chair, Mitchell must ensure the committee fulfills its mandate. His failure to do so reflects poorly on his leadership skills, said Hardy.
“He didn’t get his way and sabotaged an important committee,” he added.
Claims of political interference by Premier Dennis Fentie are unsubstantiated and hypocritical, said Hardy.
Mitchell alleged Fentie directed his Yukon Party MLAs to vote to suppress a public hearing.
The same could be said of Mitchell, who might have directed Inverarity to resign from the committee, said Hardy.
The Liberals have poorly handled the public accounts committee issue since the fall, he added.
“(Mitchell) had overstepped his boundaries earlier on and started to make the committee very political with comments he made in the legislature in regards to public accounts,” said Hardy.
“I’m not surprised this happened.”