NB minister’s recusal sparks conflict of interest talks at legislature
New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau’s recent decision to recuse himself from Parlee Beach discussion has concerned opposing MLAs to the point that amendments to conflict of interest legislation could be forthcoming.
Having ties to development projects at Parlee Beach recently brought on a recommendation from the province’s conflict of interest commission for Health Minister Victor Boudreau to recuse himself from matters the provincial landmark concerns.
“The minister of health was given the advice recently that he should recuse himself from this file,” said Premier Brian Gallant on the floor of the legislature Wednesday. “And that’s exactly what our government has done.”
It’s a move the official opposition is skeptical of.
They question why Boudreau was ever allowed to be involved in talks before poor quality water samples brought the beach to the forefront.
“Recusing himself at this point seems convenient really to avoid any further discussion,” said Opposition Leader Blaine Higgs.
Environment and Local Government Minister Serge Rousselle, who also serves as the province’s Attorney General, said by employing a blind trust, which handles Boudreau’s private assets while serving public office, they are abiding by the existing laws.
“The strongest thing you can do to make sure that there’s no conflict of interest is to have a blind trust when you do have the possibility of having a business,” Rousselle explained. “And this is what has been done here.”
Green Party Leader David Coon questioned why there would be a conflict due to Boudreau being one of many with interest in the beach’s development rather than the sole person who stands to benefit.
“The action has to only benefit the minister in conflict and not everybody else in the same business,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Coon said the recent discussion has made the need for amendments to the conflict of interest legislation come front and centre although neither he nor Higgs are confident proposing changes will gain any traction in the legislature.
“I’m intending to bring forward legislation on that but it requires the government side as I said at second reading debate to actually entertain an amendment,” Coon said. “Which so far since I’ve been elected has never happened.”
“We usually aren’t very successful getting amendments approved, so I would suggest if we can have a study done on it and have people with more insight into the legality of it all we’ll get a better outcome, better result,” Higgs said.
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