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The Graham Connection

Gas Licence-issuing premier's dad's land is now directly in the path of SWN's seismic testing.

by Miles Howe

Shawn Graham issued licences to SWN. Shawn's dad Alan is a major land-owner in Kent County. SWN is testing on Alan's land. Do we have another conflict of interest? [Photo: M. Howe]
Shawn Graham issued licences to SWN. Shawn's dad Alan is a major land-owner in Kent County. SWN is testing on Alan's land. Do we have another conflict of interest? [Photo: M. Howe]

REXTON, NEW BRUNSWICK – The Grahams are a dynastic land-holding and political family from Kent County, New Brunswick. Originally an Irish family, the first Grahams in New Brunswick settled in Main River, in the parish of Richibucto, in 1817, and never left.

In more recent times, Alan Robert Graham became the elected representative in Kent County when the district first received an electoral seat, in 1967. From there he became the longest running member of the legislative assembly in New Brunswick history, winning his seat until 1998.

Of note, Alan was the Minister of Natural Resources from 1991-1998.

His son Shawn Graham won the Kent county seat in 1998. Shawn became premier of New Brunswick between 2006 and 2010, and retired from politics in 2013.

In 1974, according to the business registry of New Brunswick, Alan Graham started a company called Alcon Holdings Ltd. The sole directors listed for Alcon Holdings Ltd are Alan and Candace Graham.

This company is not to be confused with Atcon Holdings Ltd., a company – and an ensuing scandal involving a conflict of interest between Alan Graham and Shawn Graham – that essentially cost Shawn his seat in the New Brunswick Legislature.

It appears that Alcon Holdings Ltd was – and is - more of a low-key affair. Over the years Alcon appears to have engaged in little more than land acquisition in Kent County. Provincial Identifications of land ownership show that Alcon Holdings Ltd owns a sizeable amount of land – 411 hectares - in close proximity to Elsipogtog First Nation. Alan Graham, under his own name, also owns large swaths of Kent County.

All this is relevant because under Shawn Graham's government, on March 17th, 2010, SWN Resources Canada was issued gas exploration licences for by far the lion's share of the 1.4 million hectares of New Brunswick currently under various fossil fuel rights licences.

For the 2013 season, SWN has focussed all of it's efforts into seismic testing Kent County, especially in areas in close proximity to Elsipogtog First Nation.

In several instances, the company's seismic testing lines pass directly through land owned by Alan Graham and his company Alcon Holdings Ltd.

The most explicit example of this is along Easter Road, close to the community of Bass River. Readers may remember that a piece of seismic testing equipment mysteriously caught fire along Easter Road during the summer testing campaign. Alan Graham, Alcon Holdings Ltd and the Fearon family – to whom the Grahams have been inter-married since the 19th century – own seven parcels of land along Easter Road, all over 20 hectares in size.

One of SWN's seismic testing lines passes directly down Easter Road, which since early September has been significantly widened and graded, most likely to accommodate shale gas-related equipment.

This raises the question as to whether Shawn Graham, in issuing permits to SWN Resources Canada, was in any conflict of interest when not making explicit that his father and family are extensive landholders in the direct area where the Texas-based company has so far concentrated their seismic testing efforts.

So far, New Brunswick Energy Minister Craig Leonard has not made clear the division of potential royalties stemming from any gas plays in New Brunswick. It is clear, however, that landowners – like Alan Graham in this instance - stand to derive a particular percentage of these royalties.

Whether it is a question of SWN simply seeking out paths of least resistance in determining their desired seismic testing lines, and that Alan Graham simply appeared as a pro-shale gas proponent who welcomed the company onto his land after his son issued the exploration permits, or whether, in figuring out where to test first in 2013, Alan Graham was already known as a sympathetic landowner, is of importance.

The date upon which SWN determined where their seismic testing lines would pass through Kent County, and whether this date happened to overlap with Shawn Graham's premiership, is also of real importance – and is potentially grounds for a conflict of interest.

If the younger Graham was in political office when his father was earmarked as a landowner who would welcome seismic testing upon his land, and then would subsequently welcome the potential of gas royalties, is key.

All are currently unknown, but Shawn Graham's track record in feeding his father plum contracts while in office is not good.

In 2009, as premier of New Brunswick, Shawn Graham's government issued $50 million in loans to New Brunswick construction firm Atcon Holdings Ltd.

The company was subsequently caught inflating it's accounts – a seriously damaging scandal to the New Brunswick Liberals - but it was the revelation that Alan Graham sat upon the board of directors of an Atcon subsidiary that caught Shawn in a conflict of interest. Shawn fessed up, was subsequently fined the sum of $3500, and retired from public office.


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785 words

Comments

I think you need to check

I think you need to check some facts.

1. Mrs. Graham's name is Connie, not Candace.

2. The Easter Road was widened and graded by a private company who is using it to haul wood off a piece of land.

3. Is it illegal for Mr. Graham to own 411 heactares in close proximity to Elsipogtog?

and finally,

4. Conflict of interest for a company to explore for shale gas? Is anything on paper? Has money crossed palms?

Please let me know

More mistakes

I only read the first two paragraphs and gave up because they were littered with mistakes.

1. "Alan Robert Graham became the elected representative in Kent County when the district first received an electoral seat, in 1967"

Actually, Kent Country was an at-large electoral district from 1826-1974.  Prior to that it was part of Northumberland County.  Alan Graham was elected on a joint ticket with Louis Robichaud who had represented the seat since 1952 in 1967.  Alan Graham was elected in 1974 to represent the single member district of Kent Centre for the first time.

2. "he became the longest running member of the legislative assembly in New Brunswick history, winning his seat until 1998"

He was not the longest serving member of the legislature, that honor belongs to Wilfred Bishop who represented Queens and then Queens North from 1952-1987 - four years longer than Alan Graham served.

3. "Alan was the Minister of Energy from 1991-1998"

He was actually minister of natural resources during that time.  The department of natural resources had responsibility for energy in those days, but those functions reported to the minister of state for mines and energy, not the minister of natural resources.  The ministers of state for mines and energy from 1991-1998 were Doug Tyler (1991-1994), Laureen Jarrett (1994-1995), Albert Doucet (1995-1997), Greg Byrne (1997-1998).

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