Facing criticism over expenses, New Brunswick’s tourism minister, Tammy Scott-Wallace, says going on trips to other countries is part of her job.Screenshot

Already under scrutiny for a $42,000 European summer trip, New Brunswick’s tourism minister last month took a five-day foray to Miami at a cost to taxpayers of $5,200.

Tammy Scott-Wallace’s latest expenses were released by the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture on Thursday when Brunswick News asked for the information.

But under questioning from the opposition in the house the day before, the minister from Sussex would not divulge the cost of the trip from April 6 to 11 to Seatrade Global, a big cruise ship conference.

“I think, for starters, that we will look at the need for the tourism minister to leave the province, from time to time, to form relationships and to generate tourism in the province,” she replied during question period on Wednesday. “Last year, Mr. Speaker, tourism spending was at $2.2 billion, which is 23 per cent higher than it was the year before.”

Scott-Wallace then turned the tables on her questioner, Liberal opposition critic Isabelle Thériault of Caraquet.

“You know, I look at the member opposite who just asked that question. Before she was elected, she had no problem going to Paris with her musical group by using a grant from the department.”

She also took a dig at Robert Gauvin, the former Tory tourism minister who bolted for the Liberals in 2020.

“I look at the member beside her who, as tourism minister, had no problem dining with Moroccan princesses.”

The rejoinder made Thériault livid.

Before politics, she was a musician who performed with Les Muses and later in the musical revue Ode à l’Acadie, with whom she performed more than 1,000 shows, touring Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Later, during a reply to a minister’s statement, she unleashed.

“It is shameful what you said to artists,” she shouted. “All the artists who work and travel have a right to do it and what you said is a shame.”

She also expressed outrage that Scott-Wallace was heckling at her and had told her to “sit down.”

The outburst prompted Speaker Bill Oliver to stand up and politely remind all the politicians that they should address their comments through him and not directly to members on the opposite side of the house.

Afterwards, Thériault told Brunswick News she couldn’t remember how much money the grant was worth or other details about the Parisian trip. She said she went on so many trips with musicians, it’s a blur.

“I wasn’t upset about me,” she explained. “I was upset about her ridiculous answer that she gave. Because artists work so hard. And we weren’t talking about that, we were talking about her expenses. It has nothing to do with the artists being hired, sometimes, by the province to be ambassadors. Knowing that artists work in such vulnerable situations at the best of times, and they are the best ambassadors and best vector for social cohesion, I was really not impressed.”

Through a handler, Scott-Wallace declined an interview request.

However, her department provided a rationale for the Miami trip.

“The minister was invited to attend by the Saint John Port Authority to connect with contacts in cruise tourism, which contributes $68 million annually to the New Brunswick economy,” said spokeswoman Heather Pert in an email.

“Seatrade Global is one of the cruise industry’s most important ‘business to business’ conferences and it takes place in Miami annually.”

Pert added that many flagship cruise lines from around the world, ports of call, shore excursion operators, countries, states, and provinces are represented at the event.

In attendance from New Brunswick, besides the minister, were representatives from the Port of Saint John, Aquila Tours, Atlantic Canada Ports, municipalities and other provinces from Atlantic Canada, Ambassatours, and the Atlantic Canada Cruise Association.

The opposition has been hammering at Scott Wallace’s European trip from Sept. 8 to 15 that came at much greater cost.

Scott-Wallace was joined by Deputy Tourism Minister Yennah Hurley and two other staff members on the trip to the United Kingdom and France. The group met with several tour operators and publicity firms who do business with the province, but they also visited the British Museum, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Versailles to gather “best practices” for the province’s own heritage sites.

Scott-Wallace, who was on the trip for seven days, claimed $10,199 in airfare, lodging and other bills tied to the getaway, according to 2023 expense reports. Meanwhile, Hurley expensed more than $12,000, including more than $3,200 for her stay at the Trafalgar Hotel in London.

– with files from Barbara Simpson

By John Chilibeck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 17, 2024 at 09:12

This item reprinted with permission from   The Daily Gleaner   Fredericton, New Brunswick

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