POLITICS

Nova Scotia NDP question appointment of former Ontario cabinet minister

01/14/2015 11:07 EST | Updated 03/16/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - The leader of Nova Scotia's opposition New Democrats is raising questions about the qualifications and political ties of a former Ontario cabinet minister appointed Wednesday as president and CEO of Nova Scotia's key business development agency.

Maureen MacDonald said she hasn't seen Laurel Broten's resume but it's legitimate to ask about her political connections.

"Over the past decade, Ms. Broten held several portfolios in Dalton McGuinty's Liberal government (in Ontario) but economic development was never one of them," MacDonald said in a statement released after Broten's new job at Nova Scotia Business Inc. was announced.

"Nova Scotians need to be assured that the person just selected to manage economic investments on behalf of the province was hired due to her professional qualifications and not her political affiliations."

MacDonald went further in an interview, suggesting little is known about Broten's credentials.

"We know what her political experience is, but what is her experience with respect to working in the private sector doing economic development and attracting investment?"

Broten stressed that she was hired not by politicians but through the approval of a board led by private-sector members.

"My political past had nothing to do with the decisions that they made," she said in an interview, adding that her resume is replete with business experience.

"I bring 20-plus years of experience from both the private and public sector. I practised commercial litigation on Bay Street, I dealt with companies going through exciting mergers and acquisitions. I worked with companies that were having some struggles. ... I was elected into government and had a breadth of portfolios."

She also pointed out that she served as the Ontario government's vice-chairwoman of the Treasury Board, which "looked at decisions on investing in economic development opportunities."

Nova Scotia Business Inc. issued a statement Wednesday saying Broten has experience in economic development, budgetary analysis, microfinance and job creation in the creative industries, food processing, green energy and clean-tech sectors.

As well, Broten said she has a good understanding of Nova Scotia's economy given the fact that she recently wrapped up a study that included a broad review of the province's tax system.

Her report released in November said Nova Scotia should introduce a carbon tax like British Columbia and broaden its harmonized sales tax to cover previously exempt items including children's clothing, diapers and home energy costs.

Broten's report also said those proposed tax increases should be offset by lower income and corporate tax rates and a government spending freeze.

Nova Scotia's Liberal government has yet to say what it will do with the report.

Broten is a lawyer who resigned from Ontario politics in June 2013. As a cabinet minister, her portfolios included education, environment and children and youth services.

Her appointment at Nova Scotia Business Inc. takes effect Jan. 26.

Follow @NovaMac on Twitter.