New Brunswick’s tourism minister says he cannot explain why a controversial 2013 booking at the Larry’s Gulch fishing lodge was handled differently than others.

The 2013 trip, organized by NB Liquor, included a senior editor for the Moncton Times & Transcript, Murray Guy, who has since resigned from the newspaper over accepting the free trip.

Government records treat the 2013 trip as a private reservation by an outside customer. The guest lists for private reservations aren’t released to the public.

But NB Liquor’s 2012 and 2014 bookings at the resort were treated as public bookings, and they show up that way in records released to the media. All the guest names are listed.

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Larry's Gulch has exclusive access to some of the best salmon fishing on the Restigouche River. (CBC)

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser says he’s not sure why the 2013 trip was treated differently.

“That’s what the internal review that we’ve got underway will establish,” he says.

“I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of that review.”

Fraser says he doesn’t believe there is any way for a government-owned Crown corporation, such as NB Liquor, to even make a reservation as a private outside customer.

The distinction is important because Brunswick News says its internal investigation found Guy asked the government to change or alter the 2013 records.

One of the company’s reporters found Guy’s name on a guest list released as part of a Right to Information request. Brunswick News says after management found out, Guy sought to have PC government officials change the record to conceal his presence.

The NB Liquor booking does not appear on a version of the 2013 list later released to other media.

New policy on bookings

Fraser made the comments Wednesday after announcing a new policy for government departments and agencies that want to use Larry’s Gulch.

A committee made up of three officials in charge of job creation the CEO of Opportunities New Brunswick, the CEO of the Jobs Board, and the Minister of Economic Development will conduct “a very stringent review of any request,” Fraser says.

All requests “will have to have a focus on job creation and economic development,” and the committee will have the last word, Fraser says. A politician won’t be able to overrule the decision.

For example, hosting executives from a company that might set up shop in New Brunswick would be acceptable, Fraser said. But routine meetings government departments hold at Larry’s Gulch with stakeholders might not.

Fraser says information on bookings will be released publicly.

“We want to make sure that we’re transparent and people are aware of what’s happening at that facility,” he says.

Fraser says the changes were in the works before the Brunswick News controversy, as part of the government’s plan to focus on job creation across all departments.

He brushed off suggestions from NDP Leader Dominic Cardy that the government sell the lodge.

“This is a valuable resource and there are many benefits there. The issue is the management of it," he says.

Alward responds

The PC Opposition and Green Party Leader David Coon also support keeping the lodge as a government asset, as long as it’s not used for political purposes.

In an email Wednesday to CBC News, former premier David Alward confirmed he was part of the same trip as Guy, which took place July 17-19, 2013.

It was organized by NB Liquor, and several of the guests worked for companies that supply the Crown corporation. Andy Gauvin, a vice-president at Moosehead Breweries in Saint John, confirmed he was one of the guests.

Gauvin said he couldn’t remember why Murray Guy was at the lodge as part of the group.

Alward says he was not aware of any discussion about changing records to conceal Guy’s presence.

“The first I was made aware of any issue was when I read the Telegraph-Journal article,” he said.