Former Moncton mayor Brian Murphy says the city should make public the secret deal his administration made with the Irvings.

Under the contract between the city and the Moncton Wildcats that was negotiated under Murphy, the city gives the Irvings $88,000 a year to keep their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team in Moncton.

The $88,000 is ostensibly to offset the lack of luxury boxes in the Moncton Coliseum.

However, confidential city council minutes obtained by CBC state the payment was authorized to lure the Irvings into building a diaper plant in the city.

Irving diaper plant

Confidential Moncton city council minutes state the city pays $88,000 to Irving to locate a diaper plant in the city. (Marc Genuist/CBC)

Brian Murphy was mayor of Moncton from 1998 to 2004 and remembers the Irvings as tough negotiators.

He says they made the case they needed compensation for the lack of corporate boxes at the Moncton Coliseum.

Murphy says $88,000 a year is a good deal in exchange for the hockey team.

"What about the threat of anybody, Irvings or otherwise, of not putting their team in Moncton?," he said. "They could have put it in Dieppe."

"Under Yvon Lapierre, [Dieppe] was a real happening, aggressive city and I have no doubt that they would have made the offer to build a rink," said Murphy.

"They were in the throes of building rinks. It was the perfect time," he said. "So what do you do as a council? You say, `We need to do what we need to do to get the Wildcats."

Murphy would not discuss the confidential council minutes obtained by CBC that state the $88,000 payment was to lure another Irving enterprise to the city. He characterizes that as speculation.

"I don't believe there is any reference in the contracts to any of the other corporate interests of the Irvings," said Murphy.

The former mayor says the deal between the city and the Irvings should be made public. He can't understand why Mayor George LeBlanc is refusing to talk about it.

"I'm shocked that somebody, and particularly maybe the mayor, isn't out saying, `Well, here's what we have and here's what we have to do,'" said Murphy.

CBC News requested a copy of Moncton's contract with the Wildcats under the province's Right to Information Act. Moncton refused to provide the information. Saint John and Bathurst freely provided a copy of their contract with their QMJHL team under the same request.

City officials in Moncton refuse to discuss the confidential minutes. They are trying to determine who leaked the information to CBC.

Meanwhile in Fredericton, provincial politicians are tip-toeing around the issue of Moncton providing a secret subsidy to an Irving company.

The Department of Local Government says it's legal for municipalities to give grants to companies, but Local Government Minister Danny Soucy would not speak to reporters about that on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs, who has been critical of corporate subsidies, also wouldn't talk about the $88,000 annual payment to the Irving diaper plant.

"You know, I don't think it's anything — I don't know enough about the details to comment, so I think it wouldn't be relevant for me to make a comment," said Higgs.

Liberal MLA Chris Collins was a Moncton city councillor from 2004 to 2007 and doesn't recall hearing about the real reason for the payments. Collins doesn't believe it's up to the province to tell the city what to do.

"The municipalities are autonomous units of government, responsible for their own decision-making," said Collins.

Moncton is now negotiating a new arena lease with the Wildcats — while at the same time trying to convince the province and the federal government to help pay for a new downtown centre where the team would play in the future.