Victor Boudreau refuses to answer Atcon questions

A Liberal cabinet minister who was at the heart of the Atcon fiasco is refusing to respond to criticisms of his actions by the auditor general.

Opposition Tories have called for Victor Boudreau's resignation for his role in the Atcon fiasco

Health Minister Victor Boudreau spoke to reporters on Wednesday about the auditor general's report on the previous Liberal government's Atcon fiasco. (CBC)

A Liberal cabinet minister who was at the heart of the Atcon fiasco is refusing to respond to criticisms of his actions by the auditor general.

Health Minister Victor Boudreau spoke to reporters for the first time on Wednesday since Auditor General Kim MacPherson released her March 24 audit into Liberal loan guarantees in 2008 and 2009.

Boudreau was a minister in the Shawn Graham government during some of the Atcon decisions during that period.

He was also the minister who signed off on removing the province's security over $64 million in loan guarantees — effectively exposing taxpayers to more risk. Atcon's bankruptcy in 2010 ended up costing taxpayers more than $70 million.

"I think the premier has sufficiently addressed that issue," Boudreau said, when asked about the report.

MacPherson concluded cabinet's decision to ignore warnings from bureaucrats about Atcon showed a "troubling disregard" for tax dollars.

She quoted civil service documents warning against the removal of the province's security. The documents told ministers that Atcon was "on the verge of collapse" and that giving up security on the loan guarantees "erodes our … position, from bad to worse."

Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch has called for Boudreau's resignation over his involvement handing out the Atcon loan guarantees. (CBC)
Her report says Boudreau did not comply with regulations when he amended the security on the loan guarantees in 2009 to give Scotiabank priority in collecting from creditors if Atcon went bankrupt.

"This decision did not comply" with the regulation, MacPherson wrote, because the minister can only make changes that don't "substantially" affect an agreement.

The Progressive Conservative Opposition has called for Boudreau to resign or for Premier Brian Gallant to fire him over that finding.

Boudreau would not respond to that or to the details in MacPherson's report.

Instead, he repeated Gallant's line that the government would consider MacPherson's recommendations on subsidies to companies.

Stephen Lund, the chief executive officer of the new job-creation agency Opportunities New Brunswick, has already met with the auditor general to discuss the recommendations.

"We've committed to looking at the auditor general's recommendations and acting on them," Boudreau said.

"Mr. Lund has already been in touch with the auditor general. We're going to do our best to address each one of those recommendations and explain the ones we can't address and why we can't address them. So I think it's been sufficiently dealt with over the last number of weeks."

Asked if he personally regretted his 2009 decisions based on what the auditor general has said, Boudreau repeated, "I think the premier has addressed that issue."

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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