Blaney resigns to become Efficiency NB CEO

Energy Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney is resigning her Rothesay seat to become chief executive officer of Efficiency New Brunswick.

Premier David Alward will call a byelection 'sooner rather than later'

Margaret-Ann Blaney is resigning her Rothesay seat to become chief executive officer of Efficiency NB. ((CBC))

Energy Minister Margaret-Ann Blaney is resigning her Rothesay seat to become chief executive officer of Efficiency New Brunswick.

Premier David Alward announced her appointment to the high-paying post on Wednesday, outside the legislative assembly.

Blaney had recently been shuffled to the Department of Energy from the Department of Environment.

Blaney cited family reasons for her "tough decision" to leave politics after 13 years as an MLA.

She said it's been a difficult year-and-a-half for her personally. She and her husband divorced and she's had to juggle being a minister in Fredericton with her teenaged children's needs at home in Rothesay.

Now, she'll work at Efficiency New Brunswick's headquarters in Saint John.

"This opportunity is affording me, and I'm so grateful for it, that balance with my children and my work life," she said.

Blaney begins her new job next month.

"It has been an honour and a privilege to work on behalf of my neighbours and constituents in Saint John-Kings and Rothesay to make life even better in New Brunswick," Blaney said in a statement.

"My new role will allow me to spend more time with my young family in the wonderful community we call home."

Allegations of political patronage

Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau says there should have been an open competition for the high-paying post.

But the Opposition Liberals contend the appointment amounts to political patronage.

The Crown corporation, which is mandated to promote efficient energy measures, already has a CEO — Denis Caron, the deputy minister of environment and local government.

Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau said Alward's decision to replace Caron with a retiring PC MLA smacks of patronage.

"He should have had an open competition because that's what he said he would do during the last election. So this is another broken promise on his part," Boudreau said.

Blaney's appointment is the latest of several top government jobs doled out to Conservatives by Alward.

Among them: Alward's election campaign co-chair Daniel Allain was appointed the head of NB Liquor; former Tory candidate Robert MacLeod was picked as the first president of Invest NB; Conservative lawyer Michel Leger was paid $1,000 a day to head an auto insurance review committee; and defeated Tory candidate Sharon Tucker now serves as chair of WorkSafe NB.

"I think it's really unfortunate that Efficiency NB is going to be run as the same way as NB Liquor is run, by picking a well-connected insider instead of making a merit-based appointment," said NDP Leader Dominic Cardy.

But Alward, who was a critic of Liberal patronage when he was the opposition leader, contends Blaney is the best choice.

"We've said from square 1 that we're doing things different and I have full confidence that I've got the best person for the job," he said.

Alward insists Blaney wasn't a case of patronage, but he acknowledged it was a private arrangement reached between the two.

'Proud legacy'

Blaney is leaving politics with a "proud legacy," said Alward.

"Margaret-Ann Blaney has served New Brunswickers with tremendous passion and dedication for 15 years, and I am pleased she will continue to build economic and environmental progress for New Brunswick families and future generations," Alward said in a statement.

Blaney's resignation forces the Alward government to make another cabinet shuffle — the second in the past three months.

Government Services Minister Craig Leonard will take over the Energy department from Blaney until a new Energy minister is appointed. Any shale gas-related issues will be handled by Environment Minister Bruce Fitch, however, to avoid any possible conflict of interest for Leonard, whose sister is a senior natural gas advisor for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Products.

Justice Minister Marie-Claude Blais will temporarily assume the responsibilities as the minister responsible for the status of women.

Blaney is the second former MLA to hold the position as chief executive officer of the Crown corporation, which has an annual salary of between $150,000 and $170,000 and no term limit.

Former Premier Bernard Lord named former NDP Leader Elizabeth Weir to the position in 2005.

Weir retired from the corporation in 2011.

Blaney resigns Rothesay seat

Blaney has held the Rothesay seat since 1999.

She ran against Lord for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party in 1997.

When the Progressive Conservatives formed power in 1999, she was appointed minister of transportation.

She was shuffled to the Department of Public Safety and in 2003 and she also served as the minister for the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.

Blaney left the Progressive Conservative cabinet prior to the 2006 election.

But she held her seat in the 2006 and 2010 election.

Alward will have six months to call a byelection in the riding.

Alward said the byelection will be called "sooner rather than later." But he did not give a specific date.

New Democratic Party Leader Dominic Cardy said he would consider running in the Rothesay byelection. Cardy does not have a seat in the legislature.

In 2010, Blaney won the riding with 56.5 per cent of the vote, the Liberals had 28.4 per cent of the vote and the NDP had 8.9 per cent of the vote.

The Progressive Conservatives will now have 41 seats in the legislature and the Liberals have 13 seats.