A controversial Nova Scotia government loan to a fish processing plant on the eve of an election has became an issue in the provincial campaign.
On Tuesday, the province's three major political parties sparred over a $500,000 restructuring loan given to Blue Wave Seafoods Inc. of Port Mouton in late August, mere days before the election was called.
The New Democrats say the loan kept the doors open and preserved 70 jobs — but their opponents see it differently.
"Another example of pre-election spending by the NDP to buy votes," said Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie.
Blue Wave Seafoods Inc. is located in the riding of Queens-Shelburne, where Sterling Belliveau — who was the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture when the legislature was dissolved — is the New Democrat candidate. Belliveau's old riding was eliminated in a boundary redistribution.
"He was trying to invest in that constituency really for election purposes," Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said Tuesday.
"If it had been really about the industry he would have engaged the fish packing industry."
The Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association spoke out against the loan, claiming it broke their own policy to allow rationalization and created an unfair playing field.
That theme was echoed by Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie.
"To use a cabinet controlled slush fund on the eve of an election to pick winners and losers is just wrong and that will stop," Baillie said.
The New Democrats are accusing the Liberals of opposing jobs in the riding.
"Over the last four years, the NDP has stood up for local forestry workers and has fought hard to protect the independence of our fishermen. Stephen McNeil and the Liberals have done nothing but try and stand in our way," Belliveau said in a statement.