Deputy premier offers new rationale for Blaney's job

The Alward government is offering a new explanation for the controversial appointment of Margaret-Ann Blaney as president of Efficiency New Brunswick.
Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud offered a new explanation for the appointment of Margaret-Ann Blaney to the top job at Efficiency New Brunswick on Wednesday. (CBC)

The Alward government is offering a new explanation for the controversial appointment of Margaret-Ann Blaney as president of Efficiency New Brunswick.

The former energy minister was given the high-paying job of president and chief executive officer of the Crown corporation in May, even though a civil servant had been put in the job in March.

The appointment has opened up the Progressive Conservative government to attacks from its political rivals for patronage.

Premier David Alward’s appointment has even been received cooly by his finance minister and his party’s candidate in the Rothesay byelection who are refusing to endorse Blaney’s job.

Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud used the final day of the legislative assembly on Wednesday to trot out a new explanation for Blaney’s appointment.

At first, the senior cabinet minister attempted to rewrite history a bit, by suggesting Blaney was replacing the corporation’s first president, Elizabeth Weir.

"We had the responsibility as a government to fulfill, or replace, Madame Weir to that position," he told reporters.

But that ignores the reality that Weir retired almost a year ago and that in March, Alward added the job of Energy Efficiency president to the duties of the deputy minister of environment Denis Caron.

For weeks, no one has been able to explain why Blaney was given a job that wasn't even vacant.

Robichaud introduced a new rationale on Wednesday, when he said Caron's appointment was never permanent. He told reporters that Caron's appointment was "a temporary position."

Even though no one described Caron's double-duties as temporary back in March when the move was made.

In fact, in a press release Alward counted the doubling-up as the elimination of a senior management job and a saving for taxpayers. The provincial government now claims it was only intended to last 10 weeks.

"We downsized the number of deputy ministers, and we downsized also the number of CEOs of Crown corporations," Robichaud said.

"But we do believe there is an important role to play with Efficiency New Brunswick, and Madame Blaney will play a very important role."

June 25 byelection

The byelection to replace Blaney in the legislative assembly will be held on June 25.

The Progressive Conservatives have held the riding, and its predecessor, since 1999.

Hugh John (Ted) Flemming III is running for the Tories, John Wilcox, a retired police officer, is running for the Liberals and NDP Leader Dominic Cardy is his party’s candidate.

Sharon Murphy will be running in the riding again for the Green Party and Marjorie MacMurray will be on the ballot as an independent candidate.

The People's Alliance of New Brunswick has decided not to field a candidate in the riding and has encouraged its supporters to vote for Cardy.

The opposition parties are hoping to use the controversy over Blaney’s appointment to attract voters to their candidates.

Cardy has already brought in federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair to the southern New Brunswick riding to help him campaign.

But Flemming has done his best to diffuse the issue.

He has openly campaigned with Higgs in the riding and he has said people are right to be upset about the decision to give the former energy minister a high-paying civil service job.