Conservative member quits Nova Scotia legislature in wake of spending scandal
By Keith Doucette
HALIFAX, N.S. — Nova Scotia's spending allowance scandal has claimed the political career of one of its central figures with the resignation of veteran Tory Richard Hurlburt, who admitted buying a generator and big-screen television at public expense.
The news broke abruptly Tuesday in a short news release from the Conservative party on behalf of Hurlburt, who is vacationing in Florida and unavailable for comment.
The statement didn't mention why the 10-year veteran was stepping down as member for Yarmouth riding.
But in a news conference following a caucus meeting, interim party leader Karen Casey explained that Hurlburt made a personal decision that she accepted.
"He believes that it is in the best interests of the constituency of Yarmouth, as well as his family and the caucus and me as leader, that he step down," she said via speakerphone from Truro, N.S., during a Halifax news conference.
Hurlburt, a former Conservative cabinet minister, was widely criticized after the province's auditor general released a report last week that showed he spent $7,995 in public money on a generator that was installed in his home.
He initially defended the purchase as a valid expense, saying it could used in emergencies by a nearby seniors' home and for ground search and rescue teams. He later apologized and said he had reimbursed taxpayers.
On Monday, the Speaker's Office released a list of questionable expenses that showed Hurlburt also charged taxpayers $2,499 for a 40-inch television and $579 for installing it. He didn't mention the television when he admitted buying the generator.
Casey said Hurlburt was "truly sorry" for what he recognized as an error in judgment in regard to his expense claims.
"Although the intent was honourable, the perception was questionable and I think that would be what he considered to be an error in judgment on his part," she said.
Casey added that she couldn't speak to why Hurlburt didn't resign when his expenditures first came to light.
She also deflected questions about her own credibility as interim party leader in light of admitting that she knew about Hurlburt's additional expenses but chose not to say anything when she initially informed reporters about the generator.
Casey said she doesn't feel the need to resign because she believes it is up to individual members to come forward about their expenses.
She said she didn't try to withhold information or mislead the public.
"Could that have been done differently? Absolutely, but that was the path I chose to take," she said.
Speaking on behalf of caucus, Tory member Cecil Clarke said the matter of whether Casey should resign is not an issue moving forward.
"I can tell you that our caucus has confirmed to our president that our leader is our leader," said Clarke.
Premier Darrell Dexter has promised to introduce legislation to strengthen spending controls, such as replacing the all-party board that regulates members' expenses with a commission that will meet publicly.
Meanwhile, because of steps taken last fall to eliminate it, Hurlburt won't be eligible for a $45,000 separation payment that used to go to defeated or retiring politicians. He will eventually be eligible for a $41,815 annual pension, according to figures on the Speaker's Office website.
The Public Trust has been broken
The Public Trust has been betrayed and Individuals Rights are under attack!
When the Public Trust is broken, not only individuals lose - everybody loses! What hurts one of us hurts us all!
My business partners and family and friends we exercised our individual rights as citizens during the recent provincial election by supporting a candidate Vicki Conrad. For an entire month prior to the election we put aside our business affairs and worked for our candidate. We made a difference, and our candidate won MLA Vicki Conrad.
For this we have been viciously attacked and harassed, both as individuals and as a business entity! In one instance, a batch of bad cheques was forged in our name against a now-defunct computer company we owned eight years ago! These cheques were passed all over Nova Scotia.
An ongoing conspiracy of malicious gossip and outright barefaced lies is even now being waged against us, and has been for many months. Institutions both public and private, as well as individuals, are being coerced to act against us. In at least one case, the threat of personal physical violence has been used!
This is not the work of just one individual, but the work of many, and they are acting together. Some of these enemies are persons who are charged with the Public Trust, and they are using their positions to cause financial injury to my business partners and me and to put us out of business and erase us from human knowledge!
The aim of our enemies is to discredit and destroy us. Totally!
They have damaged us badly, but we are fighting back and if there is any justice left in this world then we will ultimately win this fight! We will be vindicated and out enemies will by brought to justice!
But I say to you if they can do this to us, they can do it to you! If you oppose them, they can hit any person they like! It could be you! Because the Public Trust and the Public Good is involved, I am telling everyone of our plight. Your goodwill and prayers are requested and appreciated.
When the Public Trust is betrayed, not only individuals lose, everybody loses! What hurts one of us hurts us all!
You cannot subvert this website court to your own selfishness, neither can you cut back-room deals with other dishonest hacks and crooks, and self-serving politicians! Your sins have finally caught up with you!