Thursday, April 24, 2008

Less transparency in Saskatchewan?

On the same day Saskatchewanians found out they may soon know the results of health inspections of restaurants, they realized they might know less about government transactions in the future. Bill 31 raises from $50,000 to $350,000 the threshold for transactions that must be approved by cabinet in an order-in-council, which are then made public within a week. Under the new legislation, such transactions wouldn't be known until the end of the fiscal year, and then with less detail.

Premier Brad Wall initially dismissed the concerns when [NDP Opposition Leader Lorne] Calvert raised them in question period. But speaking to reporters later, he said reducing transparency is not the intent of the changes in the bill and said the government will look at either changing the bill or issuing a directive to ensure that payments under $350,000 are disclosed in a similar manner.

Wall said the change was being made to improve efficiency so that the cabinet spent less time dealing with routine expenditures such as the purchase of picnic tables for provincial parks.

"As a result of today, and this is how I think the system should work ... the questions come and the questions create some opportunities to make this initiative better," he said.

Wall said the legislation does not apply to salaries paid to government employees.

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