NDP under fire for loan made days before election call

The NDP is being criticized for a $500,000 loan made in a key riding on Aug. 29, 2013, just days before the election was called.

Blue Wave Seafoods Inc. is getting the money to restructure its plant in Port Mouton. The plant is in a new riding — one that the New Democratic Party's last fisheries minister hopes to represent.

Sterling Belliveau is running for the seat of Queens-Shelburne. Benson Frail is running for the Liberals and Bruce John Alexander Inglis is contesting it for the Progressive Conservatives.

The NDP said it made the loan to secure jobs, but the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association condemned the loan on Monday. Marc Surette, the executive director of the association, said it breaks their own policy to allow rationalization and creates an unfair playing field.

"I've got people calling me saying, 'What about the 130 jobs I'm trying to save in Digby? What about the 35 jobs in Shelburne?'" he said.

Surette called the loan little more than a bailout.

"We want to see a level playing field with some kind of transparency for this kind of funding that doesn't really have a tangible element to it," he said. "It's not to process new fish. It's not to improve the plant."

NDP Leader Darrell Dexter, while campaigning on the South Shore on Monday, said other processors have received government money.

"This is about supporting a local company just outside Liverpool," said Dexter. "It's about 70 good jobs in a rural community. It was always about, and is about, stabilizing many of these communities."

Dexter accused the association of playing politics.

The Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have both accused the NDP of using government handouts to pick winners and losers. Neither would speak to the specific Blue Wave Seafoods Inc. case.

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