A new policy being enacted by the province may show that this country’s politicians aren’t quite as tone deaf as we sometimes suspect.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has instructed provincial cabinet ministers and any government staff who accompany them on trips to find a way to report all expenses for out-of-province travel.
The premier wants the expense reports to be posted semi-annually starting with this fiscal year. That means that the first reports we see will be in October for the period from April to September.
As is often the case with these kind of stories, the change was prompted by somebody’s lack of judgment and an accompanying outcry.
In this instance it was provincial Social Services Minister June Draude, who spent $3,600 over four days for using a car service in London.
Draude has since repaid the money and the staffer that was with her and made the booking has been placed on probation. But the damage was done to an administration that prides itself on its pragmatic approach to the money placed in its trust.
In a news release sent out on Monday, Wall hit familiar notes trumpeting the province’s growth but also noting that the money still has to be spent wisely.
“It's how we learn about best practices in other provinces and other countries,” Wall said.
“Saskatchewan has a great story to tell and we need to be telling Saskatchewan's story to the world. At the same time, the public has a right to know the cost and purpose of the trip and that their tax dollars are being spent efficiently.”
Canadian taxpayers are sensitive to how their money is spent, especially in the wake of the Senate expense scandal that began in 2012 and hassince tripped up four senators.
It’s odd that Canadians don’t as often object to their big pay packets and sweet pensions, but that’s an argument for another day.
We don’t seem to mind paying them well as long as they use some common sense.
Nobody wants our politicians sleeping on saggy cots in one-star hotels. But we really don’t need to be paying for $80 steaks either.
There is a vast middle ground there that sensible people can exist in. Most of the people who elect our representatives live in that world and we expect our politicians to live there too, regardless of their political stripe or even if they serve our city, province or nation.
An interesting sidenote is that Wall also wants cabinet ministers to include a list of meetings attended on behalf of the province. That opens up a whole new level of transparency regarding whom the cabinet ministers meet, where and when.
It’s a giant step forward that merits a mention.
It’s unknown how much the premier’s new policy will actually save but if this reminds his people that they’re spending our money, it’s a good policy for everybody.
Prince Albert Daily Herald