Allegations of patronage continued in the P.E.I. legislature Friday with Opposition MLA Steven Myers accusing the government of using loans to businesses for the benefit of the Liberal party.
During Friday’s question period, Myers focused on two loans the provincial government gave to companies of which former Liberal candidate Ramona Roberts is a part owner.
“Premier (Wade MacLauchlan) will you finally tell Islanders why you believe it’s acceptable that you’re using millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money to further and protect the interests of your party?” Myers asked.
Roberts ran for the Liberal in Borden-Kinkora in 2015, but lost to PC candidate Jamie Fox by 443 votes.
She is a businesswoman with connections to several businesses in the area, including Big Dog Convenience in Kinkora and Broadway 45 restaurant in Kensington.
On April 3, cabinet approved a $2 million loan to CA Ventures to buy and renovate a vacant building in DeSable.
That same day, cabinet also approved a five-year loan for $5.25 million to RWL Holdings Ltd. for a second line of its potato and pre-processing and wash facility in Travellers Rest.
Roberts is involved with both companies.
Throughout his questions, Myers suggested that MacLauchlan was trying to get Roberts to run for the party again.
“Why is it your loan practice to use millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to secure yourself a Liberal candidate,” he said.
MacLauchlan repeated that the money was for a loan and he praised Roberts and her husband, calling them great leaders in their community.
He also said Myers has shown a pattern of running down and defaming good Island businesses.
“It’s time we started recognizing what our Island businesses have done to advance and continue to do to advance our province,” he said.
The Guardian contacted Roberts who said she had several business partners and wanted to speak with them before responding.
Economic Development Minister Chris Palmer spoke to the media after question period about the loan approval process, including for those discussed in the house.
Palmer said the government has professional staff that evaluates every loan.
“It’s all based on the ability to pay it back and management expertise,” he said.
Finance P.E.I. staff do the evaluations and make recommendations based on merit.
“They wouldn’t have any idea what the political affiliations would be.”