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Grand Bank mayor says surf clam decision flawed from start

Rex Matthews talks about his hopes for the new year.
Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews. - Contributed

Rex Matthews says it will be interesting to see what Prime Minister does

GRAND BANK, N.L.

NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

CANADA

Grand Bank Mayor Rex Matthews said he was not surprised to learn that Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion had found former federal Fisheries minister Dominic Leblanc to be in conflict of interest when he awarded a license for Arctic surf clams to the Five Nations Clam Company.

Dion made his decision available publicly on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

LeBlanc’s wife’s first cousin is connected with the clam company.

“From our prospective we find it’s pretty troublesome and unsettling to have it confirmed that the minister was in a conflict of interest,” said Matthews. “I’m not surprised, I mean this process was flawed from the beginning and this confirms that the process was not above board, and it was not done in an objective manner.”

Matthews said it is sad to learn that the minister was not acting in good faith when awarding the license, “…he should never have used his office to further the interests of his family and his friend, that is totally not acceptable.”

Matthews said that the minister should not have put himself in that position.

soon as he realized that there was a potential for conflict of interest, then LeBlanc should have removed himself from that file,” the mayor said.

LeBlanc served as the federal minister of Fisheries and Oceans until June, when a cabinet shuffle saw him in the role of the minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

He also added it will be interesting to see what action the prime minister does in response to the findings of the ethics commissioner.

“Either the prime minister agrees with the action of the former (fisheries) minister or he doesn’t, he can’t have it both ways,” said Matthews. “His decision, and the days ahead one way or the other will tell all Canadians the state of our government.

“If he accepts this then people are not going to be happy, if he doesn’t then he should do the right thing and relieve Minister Leblanc from his position in cabinet. That’s the right thing to do, that’s the honest thing to do, and that’s what he should do.”

Matthews is still calling on the federal government to cancel awarding of a fourth license.

“This whole process needs to be cancelled for good, not another delay for two years, it was wrong from the beginning, it was wrong all the way through, and it’s more wrong now, and let the fishery continue under the same terms and condition as it always done for the last 30 years.”

FISH-NL weighs in on findings

The Federation of Independent Sea Harvesters of Newfoundland and Labrador (FISH-NL) is calling on Trudeau to fire LeBlanc from the federal cabinet for breaking conflict of interest rules when he was minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

"LeBlanc broke conflict of interest rules by awarding a lucrative licence to fish arctic surf clams to a company that was set to be run by his wife’s cousin — a decision that would have seen resource and jobs leave our province,” says FISH-NL president Ryan Cleary.

FISH-NL is also calling upon Premier Dwight Ball, as well as the province’s seven Members of Parliament to be unanimous in demanding LeBlanc’s immediate dismissal.

colin.farrell@southerngazette.ca

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