This afternoon, Liberal leader David Swann delivered a private members’ statement questioning changes that would dilute the power of the Public Accounts Committee, which acts as an important watchdog on public expenditures.
As I wrote yesterday, a motion introduced by Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Verlyn Olson now requires that “all future correspondence on behalf of the public accounts committee (must) be signed by both the chair and deputy chair.” The Deputy Chair is currently Calgary-Lougheed PC MLA Dave Rodney. The opposition MLAs called for an emergency debate on the issue, but were declined by Speaker Ken Kowalski.
I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Olson is a key player in a shady conspiracy to destroy democracy, but I do believe that a lack of leadership from his party’s leader has led to these kind of decisions being made.
As demonstrated by this Question Period exchange between Dr. Swann and Premier Ed Stelmach, it appears as though the Premier is unaware or has chosen to ignore the detrimental effects this motion could have on the Public Accounts Committee. I also believe that the biggest weakness of the Liberal opposition in the Assembly is their focus on daily tactics, rather than long-term strategy (calling Premier Stelmach a banana republic autocrat is not helpful).
It has been suggested that the Mr. Olsen and other PC MLAs on the committee were not pleased with Edmonton-Gold Bar MLA Hugh MacDonald‘s performance as Chairman. If this is the case, this is not a reason to weaken the authority of the committee which is charged with reviewing reports of the Auditor General of Alberta and the public accounts of the province, but a reason to replace the Chairman. There are other opposition MLAs on this committee would could fulfill this role.
Forcing the Chairman of the committee to seek approval from a Government MLA before sending correspondence, scheduling meetings, or requesting the attendence of government officials to answer questions about public accounts only serves to dilute the fiscal accountability of our government.
As noted in my previous post, I have contacted Mr. Olson’s office to seek an explanation as to why he introduced this motion, but I have yet to receive a response.