McGrath says he dealt with Coleman’s son
Transportation Minister Nick McGrath said he had never personally intervened to renegotiate a government contract before he stepped in to let the future premier’s son out of a problematic paving obligation in Labrador.
But McGrath said that he was dealing with Gene Coleman — the son of Frank Coleman, who will become premier in July — because Gene Coleman was the representative for Humber Valley Paving, and the father-son relationship was never a factor.
“I take my job very professionally, and I think I’m doing a professional job there,” McGrath told reporters Tuesday.
“You keep bringing up the incoming premier’s son. I don’t deal with the individual. I deal with the company. I dealt with Humber Valley Paving, and Gene Coleman was the spokesperson at the time.”
Tuesday was another rough ride for Frank Coleman in the House of Assembly. Coleman wasn’t present, and he won’t become premier until after the July PC party convention.
Coleman resigned from the company board and sold his shares just days before his son — also on the company board of directors — spoke to McGrath about cancelling the contract.
No more interviews on subject
The Telegram requested an interview with Coleman about the issues raised in the legislature, but his spokeswoman, Carmel Turpin, said that he will not do any more interviews on the issue at this time.
In the legislature, the Liberals hammered away at McGrath, using most of their time in question period to press for information about a decision to let Humber Valley Paving out of a money-losing contract to do work on the Trans-Labrador Highway.
“We’re talking about a deal that took place between the son of the incoming premier, the company involving the incoming premier and the government involving taxpayers’ money — millions of dollars — and there’s no documentation to show what transpired here,” Liberal House Leader Andrew Parsons said. “The incompetence here is staggering.”
The Liberals' question period performance culminated with Parsons listing a litany of problems with the Humber Valley Paving contract and closing by saying, "I ask the minister: Will you do the right thing and resign?"
McGrath seemed to ignore the comment.
The Liberals have said that by letting Humber Valley Paving out of a pair of bonds related to completion of the contract, the government effectively gave the company a benefit worth $19 million.
In fact, McGrath said, that’s not true. The bonds are a form of insurance that the company bought from a third-party provider. By releasing the company, the government wasn’t giving them back $19 million; it was just saying it wouldn’t try to claim that insurance money — which McGrath said the government likely wouldn’t have been able to get anyway.
With suspicion of backroom dealings and conflict of interest, New Democrat MHA George Murphy said the only way to clear the air is for the government to ask the Auditor General to review the whole situation.
“There’s genuinely good reason to be concerned about a potential here for a conflict of interest to happen. That, to me, is a good reason why you would do that,” Murphy said. “I think everybody’s got a lot of faith in the auditor general.”
* information has been added to the original article.