Liberal Rick Doucet u-turns on 911 money diversion claim
But Opposition MLA says he has evidence that EMO hirings using 911 levy funds were politically based
Charlotte-The-Isles Liberal MLA Rick Doucet is backtracking on a sensational claim he made Thursday in the New Brunswick Legislature accusing the Alward government of illegally diverting money meant for 911 services to pay for political appointments.
But the government says the answer to Doucet's allegation has been hiding in plain sight.
In the legislature Thursday, Doucet asked: "Can the minister of public safety confirm that the money from the NB 911 service fund has been used to pay salaries of the premier's appointees as regional coordinators of EMO?"
A dedicated special-purpose fund was established in 2005 as part of enhancements to the 911 system. At the time, the levy on phone bills — a few dollars a year — was to be used solely to maintain and improve the system.
Doucet said the law does not allow that money to pay for emergency measures staff.
Legal, but wrong
"The money raised for the fund can only be used for 911 services," he said.
But, in fact, the law does allow it.
Two years ago, the Emergency 911 Act was amended so the money could fund other emergency services.
"The legislation would expand the definition of the New Brunswick 911 Service under the Emergency 911 Act from a province-wide emergency telephone service to a province-wide emergency system for the reporting of emergencies to emergency service providers; it would also provide for the co-ordination of emergency services," reads a government press release explaining the change.
According to Cabinet Minister Bruce Fitch, Doucet should have noticed the change.
"He didn't read the entire act. He didn't read how the definitions have changed," said Fitch.
Fitch also said the hirings, which include a former Tory political assistant, followed the proper open competition.
Doucet said even though diverting the 911 money is legal, it's still wrong.
He said he can back up his allegation that the hirings were politically based with evidence he'll release soon.