N.S. premier takes swipe at auditor general, says leave policy to politicians - InfoNews

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N.S. premier takes swipe at auditor general, says leave policy to politicians

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil talks to media after the provincial budget was tabled at the Nova Scotia Legislature in Halifax, Tuesday, Sept.26, 2017. McNeil came out swinging today at the province's auditor general over a report that is critical of how the province communicates it's health care strategy.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ted Pritchard
November 23, 2017 - 1:49 PM

HALIFAX - An auditor general's report critical of how the province communicates its health care strategy appears to have struck a nerve with Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

In a report released Wednesday, auditor Michael Pickup said the province had done a poor job of communicating its plan to address problems in primary care, including doctor shortages.

On Thursday, McNeil came out swinging. He expressed surprise that Pickup commented on something he considers public policy, and said the auditor general's job is to make sure the government is spending taxpayers' dollars appropriately.

"Do you think the auditor needed to tell me that we have a shortage of family doctors? Do you think the issue hasn't been raised by Nova Scotians?" he told reporters.

"In my view the auditor general's responsibility is to ensure that taxpayers' dollars are being spent appropriately. Nova Scotians pass judgment on how I communicate with them. Nova Scotians pass judgment on the public policy that I bring forward, that's their job."

McNeil said public policy is the right of "those who sit in the House of Assembly."

"That's why we have this thing called a general election," McNeil said. He added that if Pickup wants to do public policy there are 51 ridings in which he can run for office.

Pickup recommended the province bring in a communications plan that would inform people on doctor recruitment goals, and when people should expect services to be available.

But McNeil bristled at the implication, saying his government had done an "outstanding job" of communicating with the public about health care challenges.

Pickup said Thursday his office was within its mandate to conduct a performance audit as part of its independent assessment role.

"This is what we are here to do," said Pickup. "If you go across the country this what auditors general do, they audit financial statements and they do these performance audits looking at the efficiency and effectiveness of how things are implemented."

Pickup noted that the areas discussed in his report were discussed with the Health Department ahead of the audit.

In fact, the department accepted all of his recommendations and Pickup was thanked for his work by Health Minister Randy Delorey on Wednesday.

Pickup also pointed out that the government has asked him for performance audits.

"The two examples I would give in the recent past are the Bluenose ... and the IWK where they came and asked us for a performance audit and we are currently engaged in that."

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said it wasn't the premier's place to tell the auditor general what to look at, adding that Pickup did his job "whether the premier likes it or not."

NDP Leader Gary Burrill said Pickup's work was "entirely in order."

"I think this is pompous and high handed and out of line," he said of McNeil's comments.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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