N.S. Opposition joins calls for Liberal government to stop funding Engage NS
Nova Scotia's official Opposition is echoing the Canadian Taxpayers Federation's calls for the provincial government to cut funding ties with Engage Nova Scotia, after learning the former Liberal leader who runs it earns $13,584 a month.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie says it's not the first time he’s taken such a stance.
“Stephen McNeil tried to pitch it as something the ONE Nova Scotia Coalition should do, but we didn't see any value in that,” said Baillie.
That was back in 2014. Baillie says he takes issue with the amount of money being spent on a non-profit organization run by former Liberal Party leader Danny Graham.
“All of us are scratching our heads trying to figure out what Engage NS does,” Baillie said.
Engage Nova Scotia receives $200,000 per year in cash, along with up to $200,000 in matching contributions for donations, office space and seconded staff from the provincial government.
Office space and salaries of staff provided by government are valued at more than $224,000 a year. Danny Graham's salary alone is listed at over $162,000 a year.
According to documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation through Freedom of Information, Engage Nova Scotia is responsible to “play a leadership and support role in engaging citizens and carrying out ongoing engagement activities, with the goal of more people stepping up to address our economic, social, cultural, and environmental challenges and opportunities.”
Graham acknowledges that its work is difficult to quantify.
“To find all the different ways to be more ready, willing, and able to be more collaborative, inclusive, and adaptive to the change that's before us,” said Danny Graham.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil agrees.
“We have seen when they've been in communities, that we see that kind of a shift. Is it easy to go and say that there's five jobs there because of them? That's obviously more difficult,” McNeil said.
Engage Nova Scotia says its government funding began under the previous NDP government, and says grants then amounted to about $10,000, plus one staffer.
“This is the very worst of the old attitudes,” said Baillie. “Jobs for the boys is one of the attitudes that the Ivany Report is telling us to get away from.”
Engage Nova Scotia says it is accountable to government through reports and meetings.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Sarah Ritchie.