One of the responsibilities that I had as an MLA was the position of Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. It is the only committee in the Legislature chaired by a member of the opposition. The governing party always has the majority on the committee. It was a tremendous learning experience and taught me a lot about government. I wished I had the experience before becoming a Cabinet Minister.
It can be a fine balancing act to get the answers necessary to protect the taxpayer of the province and at the same time, allow the government of the day to proceed with its agenda. The Provincial Auditor is part and parcel of the committee and is the greatest resource available to the committee.
My situation was very similar to what we have today. There was a very large NDP government of over 50 members and a PC opposition of 10 members. The balance is basically the same today between the Sask Party and the NDP opposition.
What I saw last week in the deliberations of the Public Accounts Committee was a total breech of taxpayer's rights when the Sask Party majority on the committee refused to call two of the past CEOs of the GTH and the current Deputy Minister of the Ministry of the Economy who negotiated the GTH land deal. The Public Accounts Committee is the perfect vehicle because of the presence of the Provincial Auditor and her report to question these individuals. It would give both the opposition and government members the ability to properly sequence the chain of events and obtain answers to questions as to who made the various phone calls and who those phone calls were made from.
The taxpayers of this province are never going to find out why $21 million of their money was spent in the way that it was without this process being followed through in a logical manner. Why the government and particularly the Premier's office would order these backbench MLAs to block this process is almost an admission of guilt and wrongdoing.
Because the former Minister, Bill Boyd, is no longer in Cabinet he cannot be questioned in Question Period. All elected members of the Legislature are immune from subpoena while the house is in session. So there is no way to have Mr. Boyd questioned by committee. The other individuals are either current public servants or former public servants and have a responsibility to answer to the Public Accounts Committee.
The Sask Party MLAs have a duty to the people of this province to be part of the solution not the problem. If the people of this province are going to have any faith in their democratic institutions, this attitude of arrogance and obstruction must stop. We have just seen in the American election where the average Joe and Jane in that country are so fed up with the poor performance of their democratic institutions and their elected officials that they are willing to take a chance on an individual who ran one of the most divisive and nasty electoral campaigns in American history. The guy with his finger on the nuclear trigger in the United States is a totally unknown political quantity who got elected because the current electoral system was failing the people.
I would suggest to everyone in Saskatchewan that you demand from your MLAs better than what we have seen in the last few weeks of the Legislative Assembly. This will be my last commentary for a few weeks as I am going to take a little time off from the hustle and bustle of agriculture and politics. Party President Grant Schmidt will be making some comments over the next couple of weeks and I hope you enjoy Grant's perspective on how the world turns.
These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”