Saturday, February 20, 2010

Expense exploits: Inquiry needed...

... by James W. Moir Jr.
Thu. Feb 18 - 4:54 AM

Recent revelations of immoral, outrageous and arguably illegal behaviour by our provincial legislators could be likened to a band of looters after a riot, smashing the store windows (read your bank account and my bank account) and running off with anything they can carry - including TVs, cameras, video recorders, generators, computers, espresso machines and even an electric fireplace! With rare exception, those we elected to office are committing appalling acts of decadence indicative of an abandonment of all of the moral and ethical principles we try to instil in our children.

In the face of these despicable acts, I call upon other non-political leaders within our society to stand up and demand a full-blown legal inquiry, wherein every last one of our current MLAs and a good many of their predecessors are subject to subpoenas and testimony under oath.

Given the pervasiveness of these exploits across all party lines and knowing that certain of these individuals are members of the Nova Scotia Bar Association, such an inquest must be led by a highly respected legal scholar from outside of Atlantic Canada.

We are being informed of a widespread malaise going back many years. No wonder our young people don't vote! It is obvious their skepticism, based on broken promises and hypocritical practices, is well founded.

Apologies, veiled excuses and displays of self-pity are not acceptable. Our children have a right to expect and deserve leadership by example, not a cesspool of greed. Different parties appeal to all of us with pleas for support based on ideological tenets - but once they assume office in Nova Scotia, it's simply take what you can while you can, and damn the consequences.

I am a Nova Scotian who cares deeply about the future of our province and the type of society I want my offspring to inherit. And I have been shamed into action by my nine-year-old granddaughter who heard about this travesty and said, "I'd stop paying my taxes!" When I asked my 38-year-old son-in-law what he proposed, he replied: "I would call up the militia to throw them out."

My 68-year-old wife Jan then asked the following question: "Whom do we turn to when even the leader of the party in power is caught participating in these same rackets?" I was at a loss for words. But upon further reflecting on our premier's subsequent lack of distinctive action - pathetically turning all of these matters over to third parties for future advice as to what to do - I told her I was convinced that he lacks the decisive leadership characteristics required for this job and, therefore, he has no option but to resign.

Carpenters, lobstermen, truck drivers, plant workers, mothers and fathers, tens of thousands of us all across Nova Scotia know exactly what has to be done. Stop it immediately. Make heads roll. Seize all those ill-gotten goods as evidence of highway robbery and demand that every cent of the money is put back in the till. We do not need another consultant to define the meanings of "honesty" and "real leadership."

On Feb. 13, Darrell Dexter said, "There is no need for an inquiry into the questionable spending." Shocking? It is downright frightening! Two days later, because the heat had been turned up, he defensively told reporters, "I'm not the premier who presided over the set-up of the system, but I will be the premier who will end it." Where was he before? Why did he not do the principled thing when he became premier? Not only did he fail to do this, he was a participant.

And it was not Mr. Dexter who blew the lid off this tinderbox; it was the auditor general and then the media.

Any chief executive officer in the private sector caught acting in this fashion would have been dismissed immediately by his or her board of directors.

No one who turns a blind eye to such activities commands respect from those he pretends to lead and, in our case, serve. The premier should step down and allow one of the few MLAs who resisted these temptations to function as our interim leader - followed by an election after the inquiry.

MLAs have been described by many citizens as having violated their fiduciary duty to those who elected them; still more have characterized their activities as bordering on outright theft. As for these allegations, a court of law ought to be the judge, but I suspect one would be hard pressed to find a jury in Nova Scotia that hasn't convicted them in their minds already.

There are laws pertaining to the attainment of goods under false pretences and to prevent the falsifying of expense accounts. Tax evasion is forbidden. There are laws that deal with honouring "a duty of care," and the law is crystal clear when it comes to a "breach of trust." Those who are in a fiduciary position are strictly prohibited from using their position to reap a personal gain or engaging in self-dealing. In other words, using their position to confer a benefit on themselves is illegal, as this constitutes a breach of the fiduciary relationship.

Nor may a fiduciary confer a benefit on a relative, as appears to have happened at least two times during this recent scandal. It is our right to know if these laws have been broken, as determined by a strictly independent tribunal.

The individuals who have committed these acts have humiliated us on a national scale. Should we now bury our heads in the sand and allow such persons to decide their own fate, walk away with no consequences, and stay in their current positions, we might as well abandon all hope of building a culture of integrity or a society deserving the respect of our offspring, who now view us with contempt.

I no longer blame them. If this is to be the legacy we leave the next generation, I will join their ranks and "never vote again."

James W. Moir Jr. is a retired investment banker and business executive who lives in Lunenburg County. (Read about James W. Moir Jr. )