Nova Scotia’s embattled former energy minister is coming under fire for nearly $35,000 in travel expenses he racked up in less than eight months last year.

Andrew Younger, who has been on leave from cabinet since December, accumulated the expenses in trips in 2014 to countries including Korea, Germany, Scotland and the U.S.

“I think it’s unprecedented, frankly, at a time when the premier is talking tough about the need to tighten belts,” said Maureen MacDonald, interim leader of the Opposition New Democrats.

Premier Stephen McNeil told CTV News he was not aware about the amount of travel Younger was undertaking.

“I knew that he, like all ministers, was travelling,” McNeil said.

Though he wasn’t available for interview, Younger responded in an e-mail saying, “All the travel was approved by the premier’s office (much at their request) and all has very specific outcomes.”

Younger purportedly studied Germany’s considerable electricity conservation, tidal power in Scotland, and Korea’s offshore technology.

McNeil says it’s up to cabinet ministers to justify their expenses, and he will be taking a closer look at Younger’s trips.

“I don’t know what he was doing on those trips at this stage. We’ll certainly be asking the questions,” McNeil said.

“It’s a lot of money. For the people I represent, many of those families live on less than that, quite frankly, he said.”

On one trip to Houston, Texas for the annual oil industry trade show, one NDP and one PC MLA accompanied Younger.

MacDonald, who has spent 17 years in the legislature, including in cabinet posts, says the spending is way beyond normal.

“You can go back and check my travel over that period of time and it won’t even come close,” said MacDonald, who has overseen the health care and finance dossiers.

The premier notes that the rules surrounding ministerial travel and expenses have now changed.

As of Dec. 1 of last year, everything must be approved through the premier’s officer, McNeil said.

Ministers will have to justify future trips as the province grapples with financial challenges, he added, saying he can’t imagine a minister getting approval for spending in the neighbourhood of $35,000 in less than a year.

There is currently no indication of when Younger, who took a personal leave on Dec. 23, will return to cabinet.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant