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‘Exorbitant’ moving expenses concern Opposition

Progressive Conservative MHA David Brazil speaks to reporters Wednesday outside the House of Assembly.
Progressive Conservative MHA David Brazil speaks to reporters Wednesday outside the House of Assembly. - David Maher

$65,000 to move bureaucrat across the country a bit much, Brazil says

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Tory critic David Brazil says a $65,000 payment to help the former clerk of the executive council move across the country is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

Anne Marie Hann became clerk of the executive council, the top job in the province’s public service, in September 2017. In early January, it was announced Hann would lead an extensive review of the province’s waste management system.

Hann was living in western Canada at the time she was appointed as clerk. The moving expenses were paid to allow Hann to move to St. John’s for the job.

Brazil says he’s not taking any issues with Hann’s ability in either role, but about $65,000 to move across the country is a lot of money.

“At the end of the day, that’s an exorbitant amount that I would think that any member in the House would say $65,000 is an awful lot of money,” said Brazil.

“They’re offering travel bursaries for $10,000 to get pharmacy technicians to rural Newfoundland and Labrador to work, which in itself is a good enticement, but is around what you would pay to have someone relocate. $65,000 to come in for a specialized job and then partway through you’re moving on? We have a lot of problems with that.”

Government covering moving expenses for people who must relocate to perform their job is not rare. Nalcor Energy, for example, regularly pays employees who must move between Labrador and the island portion of the province – though those expenses rarely exceed $10,000.

Finance Minister Tom Osborne says the regular procedure was followed to approve the payment, though he did recognize the payment was unique.

“There are often special circumstances that are approved through Treasury Board. That’s been practice for decades in the province,” said Osborne.

“If you find someone to be highly qualified, somebody with the experience Ms. Hann has and are sought out by the province, these situations are approved.”

An access to information request filed by the Progressive Conservatives showed the primary expense was $18,700 for “temporary living expenses” from September 2017 to May 2018. The province spent $7,800 to move furniture from Alberta to St. John’s.

“It does seem a lot, but if you’re moving furniture across the country, for example, and allowing for a rental allowance while waiting on the individual’s property to be sold in Alberta, it doesn’t take long to add up,” Osborne said.

It’s unclear if the move was approved through a public tendering process, as is common with Nalcor.

david.maher@thetelegram.com

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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