N.B. auditor to investigate alleged Robichaud pay
Liberals deny paying former premier's widow to campaign in 2006
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 | 4:49 AM ET
Deputy Premier Donald Arseneault said the Liberals have no record of any payments being made to Jacqueline Robichaud for helping with the 2006 election campaign. (CBC) New Brunswick auditor general Mike Ferguson will look into allegations the widow of former premier Louis Robichaud was paid to campaign for the Liberals during the 2006 provincial election.
The opposition Progressive Conservatives released handwritten receipts Wednesday that MLA Jeannot Volpé says are evidence Jacqueline Robichaud was paid $20,000 to campaign with Premier Shawn Graham.
"There's nothing wrong with getting paid to campaign and this is not an attack on Madame Robichaud," said Volpé, who is not running in the 2010 election that kicks off Thursday.
"But this raises a real concern there were illegal payments made during the last election. The Liberals themselves say that there's no record of these payments. But these documents are evidence that there was. If this is true, it's illegal."
The Tories says the documents include Robichaud's signature.
The Progressive Conservatives say handwritten receipts signed by Jacqueline Robichaud show she made $20,000 during the 2006 election. (CBC)Volpé says he received the documents through an intermediary, from a source whose identity he doesn't know. He wouldn't speculate on how that person obtained somebody's private financial information.
The Liberals maintain they have looked everywhere and have no record of payments to Robichaud, who turns 76 in September. She told CBC News on Tuesday that she recalls getting about $3,000 for her work.
Normally, chief electoral officer Michael Quinn would look into the issue, but because the election is about to get underway, he asked the auditor general to investigate.
Louis Robichaud, who was premier from 1960 to 1970, is remembered for massive social reforms he introduced to New Brunswick under a program known as Equal Opportunity.
Finance Minister Greg Byrne said Wednesday he thinks highly of Jacqueline Robichaud but that she may be having difficulty recollecting the facts.
Byrne says it's unfortunate an elderly citizen is being held to public scrutiny in this way.
Robichaud remembers 'small amount'
Robichaud said she "was paid a small amount" for campaigning in the 2006 election, which saw Graham's Liberals unseat then-premier Bernard Lord's Tories in a tight election.
"They said 'you deserve it, you worked for the party, you deserve it,' so I said that's very nice, you know," she said.
Robichaud said the fee was for campaign appearances with Graham, phone calls she made to party supporters and for going door to door with candidates in the Moncton area.
"I think everybody is paid when they do some campaigning for the party," she said.
Liberal spending reports filed with Elections New Brunswick from 2006 show only three people were paid salaries, wages or benefits, for a total of $4,500. Robichaud was not one of them.
Deputy Premier Donald Arseneault disputes Robichaud's claim that she was paid.
"We searched all our records and I can tell you that we have not paid any money from the Liberal Party to Madame Robichaud," Arseneault said.
New Brunswick's Elections Act sets out guidelines on how much parties can spend in provincial campaigns and how much riding associations can spend in their local elections.
Progressive Conservative MLA Jeannot Volpé said he finds it troubling that Jacqueline Robichaud may have been paid to campaign for the Liberals in 2006. (CBC) Volpé said he finds the situation troubling.
"There's certainly a procedure where every expense that you have in a party during a campaign has got to be reported," he said.
Robichaud's claim puts the Liberals in the awkward position of contradicting a woman whose honour they defended last week when the Tories revealed she was receiving an MLA survivor pension despite not being eligible at the time she began receiving it.
The Tories said Robichaud has been receiving monthly payments of about $2,000 since 2007.
Robichaud was not married to Louis J. Robichaud when he was premier from 1960 to 1970. He died in January 2005.
Until 2007, the widows of MLAs weren't eligible for a survivor's pension if they weren't married when the MLA was in the legislature.
MLAs voted to change the law in mid-2007, but that was after the payments to Robichaud had already started.
The Liberals said the payments were authorized by the province's Board of Management, a cabinet committee.