Kevin Vickers calls for investigation of Saint John bailout

Kevin Vickers, the former House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, announces his intention to run for the leadership of the New Brunswick Liberals, in Miramichi, N.B., on March 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Kevin Vickers, the leader of the New Brunswick Liberal Party, is calling for an investigation into the Saint John bailout, a $22.8-million deal that was orchestrated by his predecessor — and then premier — Brian Gallant.

The deal, struck in March 2018, came under scrutiny in a report by auditor general Kim MacPherson.

She said it was a concern that the bailout was approved without legislative authority and reviewing documentation from the city, setting a “risky precedent for the province.”

READ MORE: N.B. auditor general raising concern over province’s fiscal decline

Vickers says that he welcomes further scrutiny of the deal but said that it came with good intentions.

“If mistakes were made in how the deal was put together, then yes, people need to take responsibility for that,” said Vickers, in a press release.

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The report says that Premier Blaine Higgs should release the findings of a working committee that was created to help the city find long-term solutions to the city’s debt issues.

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The committee’s report was due to be delivered in late 2018 or early 2019.

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“The premier is either sitting on this report and keeping its findings from the public, or he stopped the important work this committee was doing. Neither of those things is acceptable if the premier is serious about helping Saint John,” Vickers said.

“That’s why it’s crucial the premier comes clean about what the recommendations are to help Saint John in the long run. The real goal here is to put Saint John on more secure financial footing, so the findings of this working group of city and provincial officials have to be part of the discussion before the legislative committee.”

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The spokesperson for Environment and Local Government, Anne Moores, said they’ve been working ”diligently” to finalize the report and bring it forward.

“We are in the final stages and the report will be made public in due course,” said Moores.

“We are ensuring we follow the proper approval processes both at the provincial and city level before making it public. We are going to be more focused on action than just putting forward a report with options.”

Vickers noted in the press release that Higgs had yet to cancel the deal despite the flags raised by the auditor general.

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