Shawn Graham says he’s relieved to hear New Brunswick's conflict-of-interest commissioner is finishing his investigation into whether the former premier’s family connections influenced the awarding of three loan guarantees to Miramichi-based Atcon Construction.
The Atcon group of companies filed for bankruptcy in early 2010. In 2009, Graham’s Liberal government extended three different loan guarantees to Atcon worth a combined $50 million. In 2008, the province gave Atcon a $13.3-million loan guarantee to help with the Deh Cho bridge project in the Northwest Territories. That money allowed the company to meet the minimum criteria for the Northwest Territories government to guarantee the entire cost of the bridge project.
Conflict commissioner Patrick Ryan began the investigation after the then-Opposition Progressive Conservatives alleged Graham was in a conflict because his father sat on the board of an Atcon subsidiary.
Graham said he heard Ryan’s two-year investigation has finished.
"I understand it's under translation, but it should be timely soon that we can hopefully sit down and meet," Graham said.
He is still defending the $50 million loan guarantee awarded by his government even though evidence at Atcon's bankruptcy hearing showed the company was having problems before his government made the decision.
He said the recession was making it hard for companies to get bank loans.
"So I'm hoping when this report is released that it will reflect that the intention of our government was to save those jobs and that's why we made the decisions we did."
Asked if he regrets the $50 million cost to taxpayers, Graham pointed to other loan guarantees that worked.
"I take solace in seeing the companies that succeeded, but definitely I regret that this one failed," he said.
The conflict commissioner can only investigate sitting MLAs, so Graham could short-circuit the report by resigning his seat, but he says he's not planning to do that.
Atcon was placed into receivership in March 2010 after months of legal and financial troubles. Several former contractors and employees had launched legal action, or threatened it, for alleged unpaid bills.