26 September 2023

CANADA: PS appointment prompts call of conflict of interest

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The Government of the Canadian Province of New Brunswick has come under fire for appointing the Public Servant overseeing forestry and energy policies to be in charge of the environmental regulator of those sectors, raising questions of a conflict of interest.

Deputy Minister (Secretary) at the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, Tom MacFarlane (pictured) was recently named to the same top job at the Department of Environment and Local Government.

Leader of the Green Party in the Provincial Parliament, David Coon described the decision as “terrible — he will be in a direct conflict of interest”.

Executive Director of the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Lois Corbett said the perception of conflict was sometimes just as dangerous as real conflicts.

“With one hat on as Energy and Resource Development Deputy, he has a certain economic agenda to fulfil, but as Environment Deputy he has to protect water first of all, and clean air, and natural systems,” Ms Corbett said.

“I don’t understand, no matter how wide the beam is, how you can walk that beam,” she said.

Mr MacFarlane’s new appointment was approved by the Provincial Cabinet on 26 May and took effect two days later.

It was not made public and took place when the public’s attention was focused on a new COVID-19 outbreak in the Campbellton area.

He replaces Kelli Simmonds, who was moved to the position of Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal.

Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Jeff Carr did not respond to a request for comment.

The Government was recently criticised for appointing a new head of the Province’s Library Service who had no library experience or qualifications.

Fredericton, 7 June 2020

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