POLITICS

Nova Scotia Tory questions legislation for conflict of interest commissioner

02/18/2015 12:18 EST | Updated 04/20/2015 05:59 EDT
HALIFAX - A Nova Scotia Tory says it may be time to examine legislation governing the province's conflict of interest commissioner after a cabinet minister was cleared of wrongdoing for not disclosing funding for the ferry service from Yarmouth to Maine.

Chris d'Entremont said Wednesday he believes Merlin Nunn's ruling on his complaint doesn't make sense because Nunn said he didn't have the legislative jurisdiction to examine it, but did so anyway.

D'Entremont filed a complaint with Nunn asking him to look into comments by Economic Development Minister Michel Samson last month.

He alleged Samson violated the Conflict of Interest Act because he was not truthful or forthright to the public when he told reporters on Jan. 15 that the government had not given Nova Star Cruises more than $26 million that had already been disclosed.

Three days later, Samson said he had known about $2.5 million in additional funding since Dec. 23.

Nunn said he met with Samson for more than two hours to get an explanation of what happened, but d'Entremont wonders why no one talked to him. He added his complaint is not with Nunn personally.

"I would have thought that there would have been more investigation into it," d'Entremont said. "What I maybe have is a problem with how the office is conducted and maybe with what kind of legislation supports it."

In a ruling released Tuesday, Nunn said the implication that Samson should have revealed to the media earlier that the additional money was given "really has no merit" because it was up to the minister to decide when to make it public.

Nunn said the legal requirement for the disclosure falls under the Economic Development Assistance Act, which gives the minister 30 days. He said that obligation was met with a new release issued Jan. 18 that revealed the additional spending.

Samson said he respects the process and wasn't aware of any complaints about how the conflict of interest office operates, aside from d'Entremont's.

"It's a process that's been followed by previous administrations in this province," said Samson. "I don't see why after the decision he released yesterday that suddenly there's something wrong with our system."

A call to Nunn's office was not returned Wednesday.