Beyond the Headlines

Why did Hurlburt do it?

Posted: Jul 30, 2012 1:12 PM ET Last Updated: Jul 30, 2012 1:12 PM ET
We know the extent of his crime. And we now know what price Richard Hurlburt will pay for defrauding taxpayers of more than $25,000. But we still don't know why he did it.
 
Why would a serving cabinet minister, a man who by all accounts had it all, risk his career and his reputation to steal a few thousands dollars from his MLA expense account?
 
Not once in the two and a half years since he resigned has Hurlburt offered an explanation for his actions. Not when he pleaded guilty, not when he issued a tearful apology to the court during his sentencing hearing, and no explanation Friday after he learned he would not be going to jail, but instead will spend the next 12 months on house arrest.
 
At least with Dave Wilson, the former MLA for Glace Bay who is now serving a nine month jail term for similar crimes, there were underlying circumstances that provided some answers as to why he stole from taxpayers. According to the court-appointed doctors who examined Wilson, he has a "pathological gambling addiction". Wilson gambled thousands of dollars every week at the Halifax casino. He re-mortgaged his house several times to keep financially afloat. In short, he cheated on his expenses to feed his gambling habit.
 
There is nothing even close to that with Richard Hurlburt - no evidence of a gambling or alcohol addiction, no personal financial crisis.
 
Hurlburt owned a successful construction company. He had a cabinet minister's salary. His wife was a senior federal government employee.
 
They own a beautiful home just outside Yarmouth, a vacation home in Florida, and while he was an MLA they had another home in Halifax that he and his wife (who worked in the city) lived in and was paid for by the MLA's living allowance.
 
Even now, after all that has happened the Hurlburt's appear to be in excellent financial health.
 
In court, Crown lawyer Andrew Macdonald said the Hurlburt's combined retirement income is more than $10,000 a month with very little debt. As Macdonald put it "they would be the envy of 99.99% of Nova Scotians".
 
Ever since he was charged, Hurlburt has refused to answer reporters' questions. Friday was no exception. After giving a brief statement pledging to to make it up to his family and community, Hurlburt quickly walked away ignoring reporters attempts to get some answers.
 
The closest we got to a comment was when a reporter asked Hurlburt for his reaction to the sentence. Hurlbut said nothing but his wife said one word - "relieved".
 
Relieved her husband will spend the next 12 months under house arrest in their lakefront home instead of in a jail cell in the Southwest Nova Correctional Facility.
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About the Author

Brian DuBreuil is a veteran journalist with CBC News. He has won two Gemini awards for his work, and neither involved dancing or singing on a reality show.

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