The Progressive Conservatives say their candidate in next week’s Kent byelection was not in a conflict of interest when he worked as a political staffer for Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud.
Jimmy Bourque owns a company that was doing business with the provincial government while working as Robichaud’s assistant.
At first, Bourque admitted he had not followed conflict rules for ministerial staffers and said he made an honest mistake.
Now, Robichaud said his former assistant has had a chance to consult with his lawyer, who told him his equipment company was in a blind trust all along.
"He realized he was not and has never been in a conflict of interest situation, and he's very pleased about that. And for us, that's the end of the story," Robichaud said.
Bourque's company has rented equipment to the provincial government and provided other services. The company has billed the government roughly $500,000 in the last two years.
New Brunswick’s conflict of interest law says executive assistants are in a conflict of interest if they own a company doing business with the government. However, the law allows them to sign a declaration to avoid being found in a conflict.
Bourque told CBC News last week he thought an earlier declaration he signed for a different minister in the former Bernard Lord government still applied.
Bourque is running in the April 15 byelection in the eastern riding of Kent.
The Tory candidate is running against Liberal Leader Brian Gallant and NDP candidate Susan Levi-Peters.
Liberals not satisfied
Robichaud’s explanation has not convinced the Liberals, who raised the issue a week ago.
The Liberals plan to file a complaint with the judge who oversees the conflict act for ministerial staff.
Liberal MLA Bill Fraser said Bourque's lawyer's view of Bourque's status is just one lawyer's opinion.
"That's one legal opinion. I think I will leave that judgment up to the judge of the Court of Queen's Bench who will ultimately make that decision," Fraser said.
The Tories have 41 seats in the legislature, the Liberals have 12 MLAs and there is one independent.
The Kent byelection will fill the only vacant seat in the legislature.