New Brunswick

Blaney appointment will cost $300,000, figures show

The cost of Margaret-Ann Blaney's resignation as an MLA and her appointment as the head of Efficiency New Brunswick will likely surpass $300,000 during the first year, government figures show.
Premier David Alward and his cabinet ministers have had difficulty explaining the appointment of former energy minister Margaret-Ann Blaney to the top job at Efficiency New Brunswick. (CBC)

The cost of Margaret-Ann Blaney's resignation as an MLA and her appointment as the president of Efficiency New Brunswick will likely surpass $300,000 during the first year, provincial government figures show.

Blaney is entitled to an estimated $200,000 in salary and benefits in her new position as president of the Crown corporation, while the bill for the byelection to choose her replacement in Rothesay may top $100,000.

Elections NB has budgeted $80,000 for the June 25 byelection, said spokesman Paul Harpelle.

In addition, each candidate in the race who receives at least 15 per cent of the vote is entitled to $9,800 in campaign expense reimbursement from taxpayers.

But the big expense will be the salary, benefits and expenses for Blaney.

According to transcripts of provincial government committee hearings on the budget of Efficiency NB held last April, the true cost of having a paid president for the organization is in the $200,000 range.

Environment and Local Government Minister Bruce Fitch told the legislature that's what his department was expecting to save by terminating the presidency as a paid position.

Elections New Brunswick says more than 800 people voted in advance polls on Saturday and Monday. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)

"That position has been eliminated," Fitch told MLAs at the April committee hearing.

"With the benefits and everything associated with that, it is about $200,000 [in savings]."

Previous reports suggested Blaney’s annual salary at Efficiency NB would be between $150,000 and $170,000 — the same as a deputy minister.

There is no term limit to the post.

The Opposition Liberals have hammered the Alward government with patronage allegations since mid-May, when Blaney’s new job was announced.

Byelection candidate also Conservative appointee

Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Rothesay byelection, who has distanced himself from Blaney’s controversial appointment, is brushing off suggestions he too has benefitted from political patronage.

Hugh John (Ted) Flemming III says he didn't ask for his federal appointment to the board of the Saint John Port Authority.

He acknowledges his Tory connections probably didn't hurt.

Hugh John (Ted) Flemming III says there's no comparison between his federal appointment to the Saint John Port Authority's board and Blaney's provincial post. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)

"I'm a well-known Conservative. I don't think someone would say we're looking for someone from the Rhinoceros Party," said Flemming.

But he contends Saint John Conservative MP Rodney Weston had no role in his appointment.

Rather, it was his business dealings with the port that led others to suggest him, he said.

"My name was put forward, not by me and not by Mr. Weston who at this point I had never met. It was put forward by the port user groups."

Flemming, who is a lawyer, says he doesn't need the money he makes as a board member at the port and hasn't travelled at taxpayer expense.

He showed CBC News his tax return as proof.

"If there's some idea that I'm Mr. Tourist, making a fortune there, I entered this race to tell the truth and be straight up like an arrow. There's the tax return, there's the port, $21,000, no expenses."

Flemming contends there's no comparison between his federal appointment and Blaney’s provincial post.

He has refused to endorse Blaney's appointment, saying people are right to be upset about the premier's decision to give the former energy minister a high-paying civil service job.

"I support the merit system. That's what I support. That's the only business I know. That's the only system I know," he previously told CBC News.

Dave Shaw, one of the voters at the advance polling station in Rothesay on Monday, said he didn't like Alward's decision.

"I'm not in favour of it, first of all. I didn't think it was appropriate," he said.

But Shaw said he's voting Progressive Conservative anyway because of Flemming's views on the matter.

"He's not in favour of it and he's not the one who made the appointment," Shaw said.