New Brunswick's Opposition leader is questioning why a Miramichi-based construction company that's asking for a financial bailout from the provincial government still owns a corporate jet.
The Atcon Group is talking to the Liberal government about a loan guarantee that's rumoured to be worth $50 million.
Progressive Conservative Leader David Alward said Atcon owns a corporate jet that it could sell to generate some cash. He hinted that he put that to Robbie Tozer, Atcon's chief executive officer, when the two met last month.
"That was a private meeting between Mr. Tozer and myself, but if I've said to you that it's a concern to me, you can be quite clear that that question has been raised before," Alward said.
Jack Keir, the acting Business New Brunswick minister, wouldn't say if the government will ask Atcon to sell its plane before getting a loan guarantee.
"I'm not going to get into any details that we talk about, any companies, when we're talking about helping them through this tough time," he said.
Keir said Atcon has created 78 of the 150 jobs it promised last year when it received a $13-million loan guarantee from the province last summer to help the company work on a $135-million bridge project in the Northwest Territories.
Company won't confirm amount of loan request
Atcon has said it needs the loan guarantee because the economic downturn has left it unable to get the required financing from banks.
Dorothy Innes, a spokeswoman for Atcon, said the company is asking for a loan guarantee, meaning taxpayers would only pay if the company can't pay back the bank.
But she wouldn't confirm the amount the company is seeking.
The New Brunswick government is having its own struggles, projecting a $740-million deficit and has taken heat for many controversial budget cuts.
And $50 million would be enough money to give New Brunswick's doctors a fee increase, instead of freezing them for two years, and restore the slashed jobs of library and support workers in schools and of court social workers — with more than $10 million left over.
Alward said the rumoured $50 million is a staggering sum for one company, so he has asked the province to work with the major banks to persuade them to lend money.
"Two weeks ago we brought a motion forward saying government needs to bring banks together with our businesses, with our economic development agencies, to look forward to the future," he said.
"Because clearly, [the] New Brunswick government, New Brunswick taxpayers should not be taking on the full responsibility of financing our businesses, and long term that is not a solution."
The opposition motion was defeated.
Alward said he realizes that the Miramichi would lose a lot of jobs if Atcon shut down.