Suspended Liberal candidate Andrew Harvey says fraud charges laid against him are “baseless” and he questions the timing of the accusations.
The Carleton-Victoria candidate was suspended from the party’s caucus by Liberal Leader Brian Gallant on Wednesday, hours after the charges were revealed.
Harvey said in a statement issued on Thursday that he is innocent and he will “vigorously defend” himself.
“The charges relate to an offence that allegedly occurred three years ago. I can only speculate as to why these charges are being presented at this time just prior to a provincial election campaign in which I am presenting myself as a candidate,” Harvey said.
“I am not involved in the day-to-day forestry operations of the Harvey group of companies and am confident that all charges against me will be withdrawn, or dismissed as I am innocent of all charges.”
Documents filed in Woodstock provincial court on July 29 named Harvey along with his father B. Fred Harvey, who is a former Liberal MLA, and his brother David Frederick Harvey, indicating they were charged with two counts of fraud.
The charges relate to incidents that happened between May 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2011.
There are few details, but the charges were laid by a conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources.
Harvey is the owner and operator of Harvey Farm and Forest Ltd. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Harvey supports suspension
The Liberal leader said he only heard of the fraud charges on Wednesday and that was one of the reasons for Harvey's suspension. Harvey won the party’s nomination in April.
Harvey also explained his decision to avoid mentioning the charges to Gallant or the Liberal campaign team. He said he believes they are without merit so that is why he did not tell anyone.
He said he does not want to be an “unnecessary distraction” for the party in the election campaign, so he supports Gallant’s decision to suspend him from the caucus.
This is not the first time a New Brunswick candidate has been forced to answer legal questions in the middle of an election campaign.
In 2010, the Liberals attacked Progressive Conservative Paul Robichaud for trying to avoid paying a speeding ticket because the RCMP officers did not offer him service in English.
Robichaud appealed the fine in 2009, but he lost the appeal. Robichaud’s appeal was not made public until mid-way through the 2010 election.
Robichaud easily won re-election in 2010 and he is the province's natural resources minister.