Contributed by Gillian Thomas
July 3, 2021
The Chronicle Herald
Originally published here>
Jim Vibert’s column (June 16, “Freedom of Information: Premier’s Response Hard to Swallow“) is a reminder that much needs to be done to free Nova Scotia politics from its unsavoury past.
A decade ago, in the wake of the M.L.A expense scandal, The Globe and Mail observed that, “ Nova Scotia was once known as a province where vote-buying and personal enrichment by politicians was accepted, even expected.” In the same article, Herald columnist Ralph Surette suggested that his home province was not necessarily more corrupt than other provinces but that “it hung on longer and was deeper here.”
Nova Scotia is scarcely alone as a jurisdiction plagued with both a lack of transparency and the entanglement of personal gain with public office. Others elsewhere struggle with the problem of the “revolving door” whereby elected officials move rapidly into private sector employment on retirement. The UK has a committee that attempts (with mixed results) to assure a cooling-off period between public office and corporate employment. Under France’s penal code elected officials are required to wait 3 years before taking private-sector jobs.
The need for a separation between political office and corporate interests is especially acute when controversial issues are in play. This is the case with the March 2019 delisting of Owl’s Harbour Provincial Park and its sale to a private developer for golf courses and luxury homes. That the delisting was unannounced and only revealed after 8 months of investigation by a CBC reporter is an important footnote to Jim Vibert’s observations on Freedom of Information. That former Premier McNeil has now gone through the revolving door to serve as “strategic adviser” to the law firm that represents the developer is disquieting but all-too-familiar news.
Gillian Thomas, Wolfville