Cottage owner optimistic about fix for Parlee Beach

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The secret history of Parlee Beach water testing

At least one resident of the Parlee Beach area says he's more optimistic about a fix for contamination now that Health Minister Victor Boudreau is recusing himself from the issue.

Boudreau told CBC News this week that, after discussing it with the provincial conflict of interest commissioner, he won't take part in any decisions about the water quality at the beach.

"I think Minister Boudreau has made the right decision," Andy Malolepsczy, who has a cottage at Pointe-du-Chene, said Wednesday.

He said residents who met recently with the government committee studying the issue came away optimistic.

"We're quite confident that this committee is objective," he said. "They've hired an excellent consultant who has good experience in this. He seems to be quite independent. The questions they were asking were excellent."

Boudreau owned a 20 per cent stake in a proposed 750-site campground that he put in a blind trust when he became minister of health in 2014. The blind trust was recommended by then-conflict of interest commissioner Alfred Landry.

Possible influence

But some residents worried that Boudreau's decision making would still be influenced by his knowledge of his own financial interest in the campground, which has yet to go ahead.

Many of them blame the fecal contamination on the growth of residential and cottage developments near the water.

Boudreau said when he learned last month that the committee may recommend a moratorium on new development near the beach, he decided to consult the new conflict commissioner, Alexandre Deschênes.

Deschênes said in a letter to Boudreau that "one could argue" he still wasn't in a conflict, but "the perception of a conflict of interest is unavoidable."

While Malolepsczy welcomed Boudreau's recusal, he said what's equally important is that the government committee is at least considering a freeze on development.

"It tells me that the committee is very serious about doing something about it," he said. "We were quite impressed when we met them."

He said a "short-term moratorium" would allow the committee to investigate the source of the contamination without the risk of it getting worse during the investigation.

No distractions

Boudreau said on Tuesday that he didn't want to be "the distraction on this very important issue."

"If the perception is the issue, and the perception is what's going to prevent us from getting to the bottom of it, then I'm prepared to recuse myself from all activities relating to this committee," he said.

Progressive Conservative Opposition health critic Brian Macdonald said Wednesday Boudreau should have recused himself from the Parlee Beach file as early as 2014, when he became minister of health.

He said the possible conflict was even more apparent last August, when water quality problems became apparent at Parlee. Shediac town council was considering a zoning extension for the development at the same time.

"He had a responsibility there, whether he acted or didn't act," Macdonald said. "How separate was that from his own personal interests?"

Boudreau said because no decisions on Parlee have reached his office since 2014, the blind trust was enough to avoid a perceived conflict until the committee started considering a moratorium.

"At no point was there ever any recommendation, any inquiry of any sort, brought to my desk as minister," he said. "It has not been an issue that has gotten to this office. There was never any opportunity for me to even discuss it."

He said if the committee recommends a moratorium that prevents his campground from going ahead, "I'm fine with that."