Brian Gallant suspends Liberal candidate after fraud charges arise
Carleton-Victoria Liberal candidate Andy Harvey was charged with 2 counts of fraud
Liberal Leader Brian Gallant wasted no time in distancing the party from Carleton-Victoria Liberal candidate Andy Harvey, who has been charged with two counts of fraud along with two other members of his family.
Gallant confirmed Wednesday afternoon that Harvey's candidacy was suspended, following a speech to the Saint John Region Chamber.
"I learned about the charges this morning. Obviously, everyone is innocent until proven guilty," Gallant told reporters.
"What I am very disappointed in is that this was not disclosed to me or to the campaign team. Because of that, we think that action has to be taken. That is why we have suspended him from the Liberal caucus."
The Liberal leader said the suspension will last until after the election. If Harvey wins on Sept. 22, he will still be suspended from the Liberal caucus until the court proceedings are finished.
If he is found guilty, he would be suspended permanently from the Liberal caucus.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that Harvey was named along with his father B. Fred Harvey, who is a former Liberal MLA, and his brother David Frederick Harvey in court documents that were filed on July 29 in Woodstock provincial court.
The documents said that between May 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2011, the three individuals "did by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means, defraud the province of New Brunswick of money, in excess of $5,000."
The second count related to trying to have two individuals to "deal with or act on documents" that were believed to be forged.
There are few details, but the charges were laid by a conservation officer with the Department of Natural Resources.
Harvey is the owner and operator of Harvey Farm and Forest Ltd. He is also a village councillor in Bristol.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Harvey's Progressive Conservative opponent Colin Lockhart says the matter raises bigger questions about the Liberals.
"When I went to become a candidate, I had to go through a RCMP background check. I don't know how the Liberals do their vetting of candidates, but that's what I went through and I'd be surprised that hadn't come up earlier on," Lockhart said.
The Progressive Conservatives have a "very significant vetting process," said party leader David Alward.
"And they have to be done at the time that they are presenting themselves as candidates. So that is done on every candidate, including myself," he said.
The charges against Harvey were laid in July, but date back to 2011, long before he went through what the Liberals call their green light process — an extensive background check that includes asking candidates if they're facing anything in court.
Harvey could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. His office said he was campaigning in a remote area of Carleton-Victoria without service.
CBC News did reach his co-accused father, who said, "Don't know nothing about it … I'm outta here."
Just last Friday, Gallant campaigned with Andy Harvey in Florenceville-Bristol.
In an April 13 press release, Gallant praised Harvey.
"We are very pleased to welcome Andy as our newest Liberal candidate. His community and business experiences will help us as we seek to build a stronger and more prosperous New Brunswick for all,” Gallant said in the statement.
News of the charges comes one day after a poll by Corporate Research Associates suggested the Liberals hold a wide lead in public opinion.
The Liberals were picked by 48 per cent of decided voters as their preferred party, followed by the Progressive Conservatives at 29 per cent, the NDP at 17 per cent, the Green Party at four per cent and the People's Alliance at two per cent.
It also comes one day after the deadline for official candidate nominations, meaning it's too late for the Liberals to substitute someone else for Harvey in the Carleton-Victoria race.
Candidates have until Sept. 20 to formally withdraw from the election.
The other candidates in Carleton-Victoria are: NDP candidate Joe Gee, Green Party candidate Garth Farquhar, Independent candidate Carter Edgar and Independent candidate Terry Ritchie.