New Brunswick

Alward dodges questions over special pension

Premier David Alward is facing questions about whether he approved a special pension for Saint John MP Rodney Weston when he was a cabinet minister in 2006.

Premier David Alward is facing questions about whether he approved a special pension for Saint John MP Rodney Weston when he was a cabinet minister in 2006.

The Liberals are saying Saint John MP Rodney Weston received a deputy-minister level pension in 2006 even though he didn't qualify for it. ((CBC))
Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau pressed Alward on Thursday in question period over the fresh pension allegations.

Weston, who is now the Conservative MP for Saint John, had served for three-and-a-half years as the chief of staff for Bernard Lord.

When the Progressive Conservatives lost power in 2006, Boudreau asked if the Tory cabinet, which Alward was a part of, approved a special pension for Weston.

Alward did not deny the pension in question period, but he cited cabinet confidentiality in refusing to answer.

"I cannot change the past. I accept responsibility for decisions made in the past," Alward said.

Weston was elected as the Saint John MP in 2008 and was re-elected in 2011. Weston had served as a cabinet minister in the Lord government before losing his election in 2003.

He became Lord's deputy minister after the 2003 election.

Weston issued a statement Thursday saying the incoming Liberal government signed off on his package in 2006.

Weston also said he's not currently collecting a pension though his office won't say if he'll get one when he's older or no longer a federal MP.

Alward said on Thursday there will be no unearned deputy minister-level pensions in the future.

Alward said on Wednesday that his view "as an individual" is civil servants should have to earn a deputy-minister pension.

Reform needed

Boudreau said the premier's answers on the pension issue are hypocritical.

Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau questioned Premier David Alward whether the former Progressive Conservative government handed a special pension to Rodney Weston in 2006. ((CBC))
"Now we hear the premier say, 'I can't be held responsible for the decisions I took as a minister,'" Boudreau said.

"He was a minister at the cabinet table, sat by Premier Lord at the time, he should be held accountable and held responsible for the decisions [made by] his government, the government he was a part of back in 2006. Today, he is trying to distance himself from those decisions."

Boudreau said he's also willing to change the rules to prevent future special pensions from being awarded.

The opposition leader said it was inappropriate for Alward to criticize the Liberals when he had been involved in similar decisions for friends of a former Tory government.

"His hands are dirty, and for him to come out [Wednesday], riding the white horse, to pretend he's going to change the world, I think it needed to be brought down a notch, that he was part of a government that did the exact same thing," Boudreau said.

Deputy ministers must serve five years to qualify for a pension.

The questions arose after CBC News confirmed Dana Clendenning, the former president of NB Liquor, is receiving a deputy minister-level pension even though he doesn't have the five years required for a provincial pension.

Alward said on Wednesday that he didn't "think anyone who hasn't earned a pension should receive one."