New Brunswick

Ex-Tory advisor appointed public intervenor

The Progressive Conservatives have appointed a former adviser to Bernard Lord as the public intervenor at the upcoming Energy and Utilities Board meetings.

The Progressive Conservatives have appointed a former adviser to Bernard Lord as the public intervenor at the upcoming Energy and Utilities Board meetings.

Tory cabinet minister Bruce Fitch confirmed on Wednesday that Yassin Choukri, who was Lord's deputy chief of staff before being appointed deputy minister of justice in 2003, will take on the public intervenor's role.

"Dan Theriault has been doing it for the last four years. He has three files on the go right now," Fitch said, referring to the current public intervenor.

"It is up to the attorney general. It doesn't come out of the premier's office. It is trying to make sure one person isn't overloaded."

Tory cabinet minister Bruce Fitch confirmed Yassin Choukri, a former Tory advisor, has been appointed public intervener.
Choukri worked with Lord at the same law firm before he entered politics. Choukri left his position as deputy minister of justice after the Lord Tories lost the 2006 election.

Choukri will be involved in the EUB hearing into whether the wholesale and retail fuel price margins should be altered.

Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau criticized Choukri's appointment as another in an "unprecedented amount of political advisers" hired by the Tories.

"Yet another Tory friend being put on the payroll. We have certianly seen a lot of that over the last few weeks, and a couple of months, no surprise whatsover," Boudreau said.

"Everybody remembers Mr. Choukri being a former law partner of Bernard Lord and deputy minister in the Bernard Lord government. They have found another Tory without a job that they are able to hire."

The New Brunswick government has the power to appoint intervenors to represent the public's interest at the regulatory hearings, such as reviews of rates charged by NB Power, Enbridge Gas or the New Brunswick System Operator.

The appointments are made for each hearing, but the last two public intervenors worked on each file that came before the board.

Theriault replaced

Opposition Leader Victor Boudreau criticized the public intervener's appointment as another in an unprecedented amount of political advisers. ((CBC))
Choukri is replacing Theriault, who was appointed to the role by the Liberal government.

Theriault replaced Peter Hyslop, who ran as a Tory candidate in Saint John during the 2006 election.

Theriault said in an interview on Wednesday that he was not informed about Chourki's appointment.

Theriault will finish his current hearings into the New Brunswick System Operator and Enbridge Gas.

The Fredericton-based lawyer refused to criticize the hiring process.

'It's a huge [learning] curve. It's one of those things that could be a full-time position.'— Daniel Theriault, public intervener

"It is the attorney general's prerogative and they have the prerogative to do what they will. That is the way the act works," Theriault said.

"I wouldn't second guess the attorney general on that appointment."

Theriault said it would be a good idea for the provincial government to consider making the public intervenor a full-time position. He said that would keep the knowledge base in a specific office, instead of with a particular lawyer.

"It's a huge [learning] curve. It's one of those things that could be a full-time position if you let it," Theriault said.

"I think that would probably make the most sense."

When Fitch was asked about the idea of hiring a full-time intervenor, the Tory cabinet minister said there was an argument for bringing in "new eyes, new experience" to look at a file in a different way.

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