FREDERICTON - New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant says he takes a political staffer at his word when he says he didn't intend to suggest that Liberal supporters would get preferential treatment in the awarding of government road work contracts.
On Wednesday, the Opposition Tories released an email they obtained that was sent by Myer Rabin, the president of the Riverview Liberal riding association.
"It is the usual practice that upon a change of government road work contracts are made available to supporters of the government in power," says the email dated Monday. The recipients of the email were blacked out.
"Ian Pelkey of Cathy Roger's office has enquired if we are aware of any Liberal companies or individuals in Riverview that may wish to bid on such contracts. Please advise if you have any names to suggest."
Pelkey is the executive assistant for Cathy Rogers, the member for Moncton South and the social development minister.
Gallant said Friday staff from his office questioned Pelkey.
"He certainly has said that's not what was said, and it's certainly not the impression he wanted to give anybody," Gallant said. "We'll take him at his word."
Gallant said his staff also spoke to Rogers but they didn't ask her if she directed Pelkey to speak with Rabin to gather names of Liberal companies.
"I didn't ask her directly if she did and she certainly didn't say she was the one that would have told Mr. Pelkey to have a conversation with him."
Bruce Fitch, the interim leader of the Progressive Conservatives and the member for Riverview, has said the email indicates that Gallant has failed to live up to his promise of practising politics differently.
But Gallant said he has made it clear to staff that patronage won't be tolerated.
"We called a meeting with some of our political staff to ensure that the message was received that this is not how it's going to work and certainly be careful of giving that impression because that certainly won't be the case," Gallant said.
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