Nova Scotia’s Conservative government gave $25,000 last June to a weekly newspaper co-owned by federal Tory candidate Allan Murphy.
Cabinet minister Angus MacIsaac said Friday that he gave the Guysborough Journal the money to keep the community paper afloat.
MacIsaac, who was the economic development minister at the time, said the fact that Murphy was a Conservative candidate did cause him concern.
“My first instinct was to say, ‘No, I can’t do this,’ ” said the minister, who is now chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board.
But he said those concerns were outweighed by the department’s mandate of community development and the fact that the newspaper serves all of Guysborough County. The money was paid out of the minister’s discretionary fund.
“The consequence of not doing it is the paper would have folded,” MacIsaac said. “The jobs involved were one thing… but the most important thing for me was to maintain a very vital communication instrument for the county.”
“This is a case where it looks like a Conservative candidate is essentially being paid to be a candidate,” said New Democrat Graham Steele.
Steele, whose party learned about the payment through a freedom-of-information request, questioned why the discretionary fund was used to help the Guysborough Journal and not other community newspapers around the province.
Steele said the contention that $25,000 would help keep a newspaper afloat is “transparent fiction.”
But Helen Murphy, the paper’s managing editor and Allan Murphy’s wife, said the fact the Journal is still going proves the investment worked.
“It’s disappointing that (the NDP) would rather have those jobs close down in Guysborough County and that media outlet to close down than for the province to invest $25,000 in securing them,” she said.
Murphy said she approached MacIsaac when it looked like the paper, which had five staff members at the time, might not meet its payroll and might have to shut its doors.
“The Guysborough Journal is the only media that is based in Guysborough County, so we felt a real obligation to do whatever we could to try to keep things going,” she said.