Premier calls in AG over Coleman paving controversy

James McLeod
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Premier Tom Marshall has formally asked the auditor general to study a controversial paving contract linked to premier-in-waiting Frank Coleman, following a week of criticism in the media and in the House of Assembly.

Premier Tom Marshall. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Marshall had been out of the province at an oil and gas conference, but when he came back Thursday, he announced in the legislature that he has complete confidence in Transportation Minister Nick McGrath, but he wants the independent perspective of auditor general Terry Paddon to clear the air.

“People trust the auditor general; let’s get the auditor general to look at it and bring the facts out. Everything will be open, and then the people can decide,” Marshall told reporters.

He also promised to make correspondence between Humber Valley Paving and the government publicly available by tabling it in the House of Assembly.

Just days after Coleman sold his shares in Humber Valley Paving, his son, Gene Coleman, spoke to McGrath about a contract to pave a section of the Trans-Labrador Highway.

After negotiations between the government and the company, McGrath agreed to abandon the contract because Humber Valley Paving was losing money on it.

Coleman has not said who he sold his shares to, and two of his family members, Michael and Robert Coleman, remain on the board of the company.

McGrath told reporters at one point that he has never personally intervened to renegotiate a contract during his time as Transportation minister.

McGrath has repeatedly said the reason the goverment let Humber Valley Paving out of the contract was because forest fires in Labrador made it impossible for them to complete the work; because it was an “act of God” nobody should be held at fault.

Coleman will become premier of the province in July, since he’s the only accredited candidate in the PC Party leadership race to replace retired premier Kathy Dunderdale.

With all sorts of questions swirling around the contract situation, the NDP has been saying all week that the government should direct the auditor general to study the issue.

But ordering the auditor general to do a report on the matter wasn’t good enough for the Liberals.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said that because of a lack of documentation around the deal, he’s convinced that the only way the auditor general will be able to get answers is to subpoena people and interview them.

“The minister has been on record as saying that there’s very little paper trail here,” he said.

In the meantime, Ball said they still have lots of questions.

New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael said that once the report comes back, it’ll be up to voters to decide if everything was above board.

“I’m very glad it’s going to happen. I think it is the right thing to do,” she said. “I certainly will accept the report of the auditor general. The question will be, on a political level, what will the response of the people of the province be?”

In making the announcement Thursday, Marshall seemed to deliberately pour cold water on the Liberals, who have been asking for McGrath’s resignation as a result of the whole situation.

In the same breath as he said he was calling in the auditor general, Marshall said he is standing by McGrath.

“I am satisfied that the minister has acted — always — with the best interests of the people of this province in mind, and not for any other purpose,” Marshall said.

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: House of Assembly.Just, Trans-Labrador Highway.After, PC Party NDP

Geographic location: Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Sarah
    May 09, 2014 - 07:42

    Dwight Ball originally said that the Minister should resign over this…based on what… speculation, assumptions (you know what they say about those who assume), without independent review or investigation. Sure it is right to ask questions (and his obligation as Leader of the opposition) but he wasn’t interested in the truth, he was interested in trying to twist this to his and his party’s benefit, tar the PC’s, and make it an issue. He is supposedly going to lead the Liberals as the governing party after the next election. If that is how he will govern, then why have the Citizen’s Rep, why have whistleblowing legislation, why have grievance procedures for government employees, why have arbitration, or Courts……his reaction was get rid of Minister McGrath, without full information or investigation….he has made himself, judge, jury and executor….that is not my type of leader. At least the NDP had a viable suggestion to have the AG investigate and the Premier has agreed to that. Those considering supporting the crimson tide should think long and hard.

  • Little Man Dan
    May 09, 2014 - 07:34

    Okay, okay; call off the AG. Here's how it went down: I gets a call from Frankie that he wants out of a contract and wants the bid bond returned; so, I says...ok; I'll arrange it, but, you owe me a favour; you'll be the next flunky premier; it's only for a while 'til next election anyway; you gotta do something for $20M.

  • Susan
    May 09, 2014 - 04:58

    When the AG is finish going over Mr Coleman book, AG should also go over Dwight Ball and Cathy Bennett books. Just to be fair.

    • Anna B.
      May 09, 2014 - 09:44

      What books would they be Susan?? Are you talking about their personal taxes which are reviewed by Revenue Canada just like anyone else. Maybe you're talking about their party's books - all of which are reviewed by the province's Chief Electoral Officer. Unlike Mr. Coleman, there has never been any accusation of possible wrongdoing relating to Mr. Ball or Mr. Ball's business transactions with government. Almost certainly of course you are a party hack spewing your innuendo and partisan drivel at somebody's instigation. If so, you might want to dust off your resume. You're going to need it soon.

    • Martin
      May 09, 2014 - 10:01

      The people are tired of the PC's and rabid PC supporters. Enough's enough.

    • tim jamison
      May 10, 2014 - 13:53

      The people? Where are these people? The people I interact with (working people) are happier than ever. We are well paid, growing fat on mega contracts. Sorry that your humanities degree didn't work out, but don't drag my economy down in your insane drive to get back at the trough