Liberal leader says he won't take a position on buyouts

The new leader of New Brunswick's Liberal party says he isn't taking a position on generous severance packages for some former government officials.

Newly released records show two former deputy ministers in the previous Liberal government collected buyout money the year after they left government.

Brian Gallant criticized patronage appointments during his Liberal leadership campaign. Specifically, he questioned the appointment of Margaret-Ann Blaney as CEO of Efficiency New Brunswick — a deputy-minister level job.

Now, as leader, Gallant won't comment on new government accounts that show buyouts for Liberal deputy ministers.

At their final meeting in October 2010, the Liberal cabinet approved buyout packages for five deputy ministers.

Normally the payments are made in one lump sum, but three of the packages stretched into the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

Deputy ministers Claire LePage, Maurice Robichaud and Dana Clendenning, former president of NB Liquor, all left the civil service in the fall of 2010 after Shawn Graham’s Liberals lost the election.

Robichaud and Clendenning each received between $125,000 and $150,000 in a fiscal year when they weren't working for taxpayers, while LePage collected between $75,000 and $99,000.

"Ah, I'll have to look into that," said Gallant when pressed on his position.

The Liberal Party isn't the only party to have awarded severance packages that were extended for an extra year.

The Progressive Conservative Party did the same for NB Liquor CEO Barbara Winsor when she left the job in 2006 after the PCs lost power.

Green Party Leader David Coon says the buyouts are too big.

"You know it's fair to provide something, but these are pretty rich," he said.

The PCs and Liberals both said they don't know why the severance recipients would defer their payments until years after they left government.

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