AMHERST - The war of words between former Conservative Ernest Fage and Cumberland North PC candidate Keith Hunter has spilled over from last week's all candidates forum.
Hunter said he's been told discussions about the future of the Cumberland County Correctional Centre began in 2006 when Fage was in caucus and a member of cabinet. The Tory candidate feels Fage is misleading voters to say otherwise.
"Ernie was still a member of the PC caucus at the time. If he didn't know about it he should have," Hunter said. ""If he knew about it he should have done something about it. I knew about it, but as warden of Cumberland County my obligation, at that time, was to serve all residents of the county so I was obliged to remain neutral."
Hunter's quarrel with Fage began during Thursday's debate when he said surveying of the Springhill property that's poised to become home to the new jail was done in 2007. Fage questioned Hunter's dates saying it happened in 2008, but Hunter said the survey contract was awarded the previous November and conceptual drawings soon followed.
"Maybe Ernie wants to suggest the survey was completed in 2008, but I believe that if survey work is underway and architects have done drawings that is a pretty good sign that construction will follow," Hunter said. "I don't blame Murray Scott for going after the jail, but our MLA, whether in government, opposition or as an Independent should have been making a lot of noise for us in Cumberland North."
Fage responded Monday by again questioning Hunter's timeline, saying the first strong indication he received about the potential move was through the media earlier this year.
"Keith's timeline is certainly well off," Fage said. "I spoke to (Justice Minister) Cecil Clarke soon after it appeared in the paper and he told me there were no decisions made on the jail. When I looked deeper into it all I could find was speculation."
Hunter said Fage should have been like the town crier on the jail issue, but accused him of being quiet.
The Tory candidate also took issue with Fage's comment during the debate that he didn't ask a question of the government because he sat on the same side of the legislature and was observing parliamentary tradition.
"It won't matter where in the House I sit after this election, but if I am the MLA I will rise and I will speak loud and clear for Cumberland North," Hunter said, adding he wants his politics to be about the positive things happening in the riding. "However, voters are faced with a decision and need to know the facts. Sometimes that forces me to point out facts about others I don't like to, but it is important for the voters to know so they can make an informed decision."
Fage countered that Hunter himself has admitted working closely with Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott, something that could be bad news for Cumberland North.
"If the jail is the kind of decision we can expect from Keith working closely with Murray, we could be in trouble in Cumberland North," Fage said.