Nova Scotia

Michel Samson accused of lying about Nova Star price tag

Nova Scotia's Official Opposition plans to complain to the province's conflict of interest commissioner about one of Premier Stephen McNeil's most trusted ministers, who admitted to withholding information about how much money the province spent subsidizing the ferry between Yarmouth and Maine.

'To me that's a lie,' says Progressive Conservative House leader Chris d'Entremont

The Nova Scotia government's total investment in the Yarmouth ferry is $28.5 million to date. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Nova Scotia's Official Opposition plans to complain to the province's conflict of interest commissioner about one of Premier Stephen McNeil's most trusted ministers, who admitted Thursday to withholding information about how much money the province spent subsidizing the ferry between Yarmouth and Maine.

The Progressive Conservatives are accusing Michel Samson of having lied to Nova Scotians last week when he pegged the price tag for the Nova Star ferry at $26 million.

On Sunday, a hastily prepared news release from the provincial government revealed the correct amount of taxpayers' investment at $28.5 million. The extra $2.5 million is the amount cabinet approved on Dec. 23, 2014.

Samson, the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, was asked numerous times this year whether the government had authorized or given the operators of the Nova Star more money than the $26 million disclosed to date.

He repeatedly said no.

In a conference call from Florida on Thursday, where he's at a golf show put on by the PGA, Samson provided an apology of sorts for not being completely up front.

"I can tell you now that last Thursday when I was asked the question of the total amount, I misspoke," he said. "If I could go back I would do it differently."

Progressive Conservative House leader Chris d'Entremont had another word for the situation.

"To me that's a lie and if you're going to stand there and you're going to continue to stretch the truth or you're going to lie, I don't think that's the right way to conduct a government," he said.

For the New Democratic Party, the problem is a lack of leadership.

"We've got a premier that will not take people to task so what are we going to do?" said Frank Corbett, the NDP House leader.

"We're stuck with this government for another 2½ years. Heaven help Nova Scotians."

Cabinet ministers in Nova Scotia must adhere to a ministerial code of conduct. The Conflict of Interest Act states, "Ministers shall be truthful and forthright and not deceive or knowingly mislead the House of Assembly or the public."

Asked before Samson's phone call with reporters, McNeil denied that his minister has breached that code of conduct.

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