In 2016, Premier Dwight Ball’s government awarded Ball’s private company a $400,000 forgivable grant of public money that benefitted Ball and his business interests.
Not only does that look wrong; it was also forbidden in the contract.
The 2016 contract explicitly stated that no provincial MHA “shall be admitted to any share or part of any contract, agreement or commission made pursuant to this agreement or to any benefit arising there from.”
The premier was an MHA at the time the contract was awarded, so it seems clear: what was done was wrong.
However, the premier gives himself two outs.
First, the premier says the Commissioner for Members’ Interests reviewed and approved this decision.
But is that true?
The premier has refused to release the report from the commissioner to prove that the contract was ever approved — or even properly reviewed.
That raises the question of whether such a report even exists.
Second, the premier says he delayed finalizing the contract until his business interests were placed in a blind trust. The contract was finalized under the Ball administration and funding flowed eight months after the Liberals formed government.
The premier was not blind to the expenditure of public funds by his government. It would have been clear to him, and to anyone who looked, that this public funding was going in the direction of the company that he had just put in a blind trust.
And he should have known — having applied for the grant before the blind trust was imposed — that an MHA was not entitled to it.
His excuses are not good enough.
What he did was wrong.
The premier needs to pay back the $400,000 grant.
There’s an issue here that is bigger than just the money.
The bigger issue is misleading the people.
Unfortunately, it’s become a pattern.
Remember a couple of years ago when we were told the premier’s office had nothing to do with the removal of street signs calling on Dwight Ball to resign? It turned out that what we were told was not true.
Remember when we were told one thing and learned another about the replacement of the CEO of Nalcor Energy?
Remember when we were the Liberals were “going to take the politics out of appointments” and then learned about political patronage appointments in the public service?
Remember when we were told “there was no decision on a sole source deal” and then learned about an exclusive deal with a marijuana growth company?
The pattern of playing loose with the truth has come to define the Ball Premiership and the Liberal government.
If people have trouble trusting what he says, he has no one but himself to blame.
People expect better, demand better and deserve better.
Leader of the Official Opposition, MHA Topsail-Paradise