N.L. health minister faces conflict of interest concerns
Newly appointed Health Minister Paul Oram is facing questions from opposition leaders about whether his co-ownership of two personal care homes in the province poses a conflict of interest.
Oram was named to the role Thursday when Premier Danny Williams shuffled his cabinet.
Former health minister Ross Wiseman — who has been dogged by criticism over the controversy sparked by botched breast cancer tests — takes over the business portfolio.
As part of his new job, Oram will design and implement legislation that governs personal care homes. But the Terra Nova MHA and his wife own two personal care homes in the district, prompting Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones to say she'll be keeping a close eye on his dealings in government.
"We have to wait and see what kind of policy decisions he'll make around home care and whether he'll be in a conflict," said Jones.
In an email statement, Oram's executive assistant told CBC News that the minister was set to transfer his business shares in two personal care homes but decided to hold off until he had consulted with Commissioner of Members Interests Paul Reynolds.
Oram himself said he'll do whatever is necessary to make sure he complies with the guidelines.
"I have been hands off for a number of years now — in fact since 2003 — and ... I have sought legal council to decide the [what] best step is to take," Oram said. "But I can assure you at the end of the day that I will comply and I will ensure there is no conflict."
It's not immediately clear to whom Oram would transfer his shares, or when he would do it.
NDP Leader Loraine Michael says simply transferring his shares is not enough.
"Because the business interest is in home care — which is part of health care — does just removing himself from the ownership while he's a minister take care of conflict of interest?" she said.