The personal financial lives of New Brunswick politicians have been put under greater scrutiny following the provincial conflict-of-interest commissioner’s ruling that former premier Shawn Graham was in a conflict in his handling of the Atcon file.
Elected members are required to disclose their investments, mortgages and other financial matters to the independent conflict-of-interest commissioner.
The Members Conflict of Interest Act applies to all MLAs and says they can’t make decisions to "further the member’s private interest or to further another person’s private interest."
MLA disclosure forms
- Premier David Alward has been granted an exemption that allows him to continue owning Hidden Meadow Farms. No one from Alward’s office was available to explain the business or what conditions Ryan attached to his exemption. Ryan turned down a request for an interview
- Speaker Dale Graham is receiving "monthly payments from the sale of a former business." Graham used to own a restaurant in Centreville. CBC asked his assistant to explain why he is receiving monthly payments from the sale but there was no explanation provided.
- Energy Minister Craig Leonard is repaying the province for a loan he received under an energy efficiency home renovation program in 2008, two years before he was elected.
- Nepisiguit MLA Ryan Riordon owns shares in Mountain Boy Minerals Ltd., an exploration company searching for gold in British Columbia.
- Albert MLA Wayne Steeves is a shareholder in Nashwaak Valley Wood Energy Inc.
- Several other backbench MLAs have small companies, and several members own rental properties, vacant lots or woodlots.
- Healthy and Inclusive Communities Minister Dorothy Shepherd disclosed her ownership of two numbered companies, 506776 NB Inc. and 648911 NB Ltd. The first of the two had sales to the Atlantic Health Sciences Corp., the former health authority in the Saint John area. Shepherd had an exemption from Ryan, but he stipulated that the exemption had to be reviewed annually. Shepherd had owned a retail paint store in Saint John, but her spokesperson did not respond to CBC’s request for information on whether it was related to the numbered companies.
- One MLA listed monthly child support payments among his financial liabilities and another listed his student loan debt.
Some of the disclosures are public and they can shed light on the non-political lives of MLAs.
Graham suggested last week as he retired from provincial politics that retired justice Patrick Ryan’s conflict report broke new ground.
Ryan's view was that Graham simply violated existing conflict rules by approving a loan guarantee for a company connected to his father.
The Members' Conflict of Interest Act also requires MLAs to give Ryan information on their financial and business interests.
The act allows an exemption for "a contract that existed before the member’s election to the assembly."
He then tells the politicians what to do to avoid a future conflict.
Normally, ministers have to sell off companies they own but the act allows the commissioner to grant exemptions if he feels it will not "create a conflict between the member’s private interest and public duty."
CBC News reviewed the various disclosure forms filed by the provincial politicians between 2010 and 2012.
For example, Ryan has let Premier David Alward continue to own a business called Hidden Meadow Farms.
No one from Alward's office was available to discuss the exemption the premier received from the conflict commissioner.
Healthy and Inclusive Communities Minister Dorothy Shepherd also had an exemption so her Saint John-based paint company could keep doing business with the Saint John Regional Hospital.
Nepisiguit MLA Ryan Riordon owns shares in a mining company called Mountain Boy Minerals, which is exploring for gold in British Columbia.
There was no conflict disclosure form from Health Minister Ted Flemming. The law requires a private disclosure to Ryan within 60 days of becoming an MLA. Flemming won the Rothesay byelection last June.
After that, the MLA can meet with Ryan to discuss how to handle his or her various interests and avoid conflicts. Only then does Ryan complete the less-detailed public disclosure form for the MLA.