N.S. Liberals want fresh look into fisheries ministers boat sale

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HALIFAX - Fisheries Minister Sterling Belliveau has sold his fishing boat and removed himself as a director of his company to avoid being in a conflict of interest, but the Liberals aren't satisfied he acted quickly enough.
Liberal member Leo Glavine has written the province's conflict of interest commissioner to request that he have another look at Belliveau's directorship of Mussel's Seafarms Ltd..
He also wants Merlin Nunn to look at the sale of Belliveau's fishing assets to determine if he contravened the ministerial code of conduct for about six months.
"It has not passed the smell test," Glavine said Monday of Belliveau's situation.
Glavine has supplied a sworn statement attesting that he believes Belliveau was, until signing over the directorship to Luella Belliveau in December, a minister in conflict.
Belliveau was a fisherman before winning a seat in 2006. He sold his lobster licence, boat and gear last fall to a buyer who was approved for a $567,000 loan from the province's fisheries loan board, which falls under Belliveau's jurisdiction.
Belliveau also had an outstanding loan with the board. He received it in 2004 to buy Disconnection, the boat he sold.
The minister struck a deal with the buyer, through a broker, just after the June election last year. After being sworn in as fisheries minister, Belliveau wrote to Nunn to ask whether there was a conflict.
Nunn replied in a June 23 letter that it would be fine for Belliveau to accept the offer, but he shouldn't be involved with any decisions related to the loan from the loan board.
Glavine said Nunn didn't have all the information the first time he looked at the issue, which included Belliveau's own loan, a lack of documented evidence that the minister wasn't involved in processing the buyer's loan application and his re-appointment of two loan board members.
"He had been unable to sell his boat for two years," Glavine said, pointing out that he then sold it a few months after becoming fisheries minister.
Glavine is accusing Belliveau of having an unfair advantage in profiting from a loan of more than $500,000 provided by taxpayers while other loan applicants were turned down.
"That is an ongoing benefit," Glavine said.
Belliveau couldn't be reached for comment Monday.
Premier Darrell Dexter has consistently defended his minister, turning down the Opposition's previous requests to have Nunn look into the case.
Dexter, who also couldn't be reached for comment Monday, has said Belliveau rightly sought Nunn's advice, followed it, and there was no evidence of a conflict and no grounds to look further into the matter.
"There is literally nothing in the department to investigate," Dexter said last fall.
Shawn Fuller, a spokesman for the premier, said Monday that nothing has changed about the situation since then.

Organizations: Seafarms

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