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N.L. premier weathers conflict of interest allegations

Premier Dwight Ball takes questions from reporters outside the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon.
Premier Dwight Ball takes questions from reporters outside the House of Assembly. - Ashley Fitzpatrick

Dwight Ball commits to releasing second opinion on loan award, but won’t release the first

Premier Dwight Ball says he took action to avoid a conflict of interest regarding a $400,000 conditional loan awarded to his company in 2015, but he has refused to release an initial review of the loan.

Ball’s company, Jade Holdings, acquired a $400,000 forgivable loan to build an affordable housing project in Deer Lake in 2015. Ball was in control of the company at the time the grant was awarded, but he says no money flowed until after he became premier — once his blind trust was established.

“I can assure you that I have not been involved in this and there was no money that actually flowed until I got an opinion from the commissioner of legislative standards,” Ball said.

It’s the initial opinion Ball references that he has not released publicly. Ball has committed to publicly release a second opinion that he requested last week.

The initial opinion would have come from then-commissioner of legislative standards Victor Powers.

Powers was appointed to the position in 2011 by then-premier Kathy Dunderdale.

While Ball has committed to releasing the opinion of current commissioner Bruce Chaulk — who was appointed to the role on December 12, 2016 by the Liberals — Ball is unwilling to release the initial opinion from Powers.

Opposition Leader Paul Davis says that means one of two things.

“If the premier is so right on this, as he claims to be, then why wouldn’t he just provide that opinion that he said … he sought. If he sought out that opinion, why not table it?” Davis said.

“Either he doesn’t have it or he doesn’t like it. I don’t know any other reason why he wouldn’t table it.”

If a complaint is filed by one MHA against another, legislation requires the resulting investigation to be tabled publicly. Because it’s just an opinion sought between Ball and the commissioner, it’s up to the premier to release the documents.

The contract between the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. and Jade Holdings, under director Derek Chaulk, is dated July 22, 2016. The documents, obtained by The Telegram, state, “No member of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador shall be admitted to any share or part of any contract, agreement or commission … related to the development.”

Ball says the money was awarded under then-Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corp. CEO John Ottenheimer, who Ball says raised no issue with the award at the time.

“I’ve not heard from John Ottenheimer on this,” he said.

Davis says he’s heard differently since then.

Ball says he is open to examining how backbench MHAs and their businesses interact with government contracts, but made no commitment to any movement to alleviate any perceived conflicts of interest.

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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