Nfld. & Labrador

Marystown skating show controversy potentially a 'grave offence,' says PC leader

PC Leader Ches Crosbie suggested Tuesday there could be criminal wrongdoing in the acquisition of tickets to a high-profile skating show in Marystown in April 2018.

Dwight Ball says Ches Crosbie is slinging mud because of his failing campaign, lack of platform

PC Leader Ches Crosbie, right, campaigns with Terra Nova candidate Lloyd Parrott in Clarenville on Tuesday. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

PC Leader Ches Crosbie suggested Tuesday that there could be criminal wrongdoing in the Liberals' acquisition of tickets to a high-profile skating show in Marystown in April 2018.

He even floated the possibility that perhaps the RCMP should review the matter, referencing the potential of a "grave offence" by Liberals associated with the issue.

"The facts could constitute a basis for criminal charges," Crosbie told reporters during a campaign event in Clarenville.

The RCMP confirmed Tuesday that no complaint has been made, and no investigation is underway.

'Throwing mud'

Crosbie's inflammatory comments come a day after a disgruntled Liberal castoff also weighed in on the controversy over how the Liberals acquired nearly three dozen tickets to an ice show starring Olympic and world skating champion KaetlynOsmond.

Former Mount Scio MHA Dale Kirby has written both the commissioner of legislative standards and the province's auditor general, asking for an investigation into the controversy.

Kirby was ousted from the Liberal caucus last year during a bullying and harassment scandal in which he was eventually cleared, though he was found to have violated the MHA code of conduct.

Ball would not mention Kirby's name when responding to questions Tuesday, but he gave a very forceful response to Crosbie's comments, and blasted him for "throwing mud' in the waning days of the provincial election campaign.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball, right, campaigns with incumbent Bonavista MHA Neil King on Tuesday. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Ball described Crosbie as "desperate," and said the PC leader is trying to deflect from the fact he does not have a credible plan to lead the province, and that the PCs are heading for defeat in Thursday's election.

"He can investigate me all he wants. He can make these innuendos and comments. There's nothing there," Ball said when questioned by reporters in Bonavista, where he was campaigning with Liberal incumbent Neil King.

The Liberals have been under scrutiny since CBC News first reported a peculiar trail of emails related to how Mark Browne, the incumbent Liberal MHA for Placentia West-Bellevue, was able to obtain 34 tickets to the ice show for a group of Liberal politicians, including the premier, and their guests.

The show was hosted by the Ice Crystals Skate Club, with Osmond as the star attraction.

The emails from a member of Browne's staff appear to suggest that if the skating club could make the tickets available, a government grant of $1,500 would be awarded to the club.

"The Provincial Gov is looking for 30 tickets to the Ice Show," wrote Tara Planke, an assistant to Browne, in an email to the club.

"There will be some monetary donations being given to the ICSC from the Gov."

Ball says he paid his way

The Liberals ended up with front-row seats, and the club received the grant, though no one from the skating club has spoken publicly on the issue.

Dwight Ball has repeatedly said he gave cash to Browne for the tickets he required. As for the other Liberals who made the trip, Ball said Tuesday he also gave direction for them to pay Browne, though no receipts have ever been produced.

"The message I sent to everyone was to pay their own way," Ball said.

But two of the Liberals at the ice show told CBC News on condition of anonymity that they offered to pay for their tickets, and were told they were already taken care of.

Browne has stated "no free tickets were used" and that the premier gave him "clear direction last spring to purchase tickets for the event."

So why such a tone in the emails?

Ball said he has spoken with Browne and determined "there's nothing there."

Crosbie said it's "something the RCMP could look into," but denied he was attempting to exert political interference on the legal system, adding that RCMP will decide what they investigate.

"Accepting a benefit when you're a public official, small or large, is very dubious, and it can be an offence," said Crosbie.

"While it  might seem to be small, it's actually a very grave offence, potentially."

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About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

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