Premier Morin says he didn't know
Morin says Miltenberger tipped him off to coming storm

Richard Gleeson
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 11/98) - If there was any doubt whether Premier Don Morin is taking the inquiry into a conflict of interest complaint against him personally, he erased it Tuesday.

Drawing Morin's attention to a statement the premier made in the legislative assembly criticizing questioning about the Lahm Ridge Tower lease extension, commission counsel Kent Davidson asked, "Are you aware of any statements in the House which implicated you personally, as having played an improper role in the Lahm Ridge Tower lease transaction?"

"I believe every time Groenewegen opened her mouth, she would start her statements with saying 'friends of the premier,'" said Morin.

There is no record in Hansard, the official transcript of the legislative assembly, of Groenewegen once using the phrase "friends of the premier" in speaking about the Lahm Ridge Tower deal.

Morin said in addition to the statements and questioning by Groenewegen in the House, other MLAs told him she was insinuating he had pushed for the lease extension.

The premier testified he did not know Mike Mrdjenovich and Roland Bailey were involved in the deal until being alerted by Thebacha MLA Mike Miltenberger that Groenewegen was planning to make an issue of the transaction in the legislature.

After that phone call, Morin said he asked for and got a briefing on the deal. The briefing satisfied him the deal was a good one for the government, he said.

The extension was finalized last August, at the same time the building was sold to Bailey and Mrdjenovich.

Bailey is a former principal secretary to cabinet and a friend of Morin. Mrdjenovich, also a friend, built the luxury home Morin now lives in.

Before being sold, the building was on a month-to-month lease. The owner, Al Marceau, was told the government was going with the short-term lease because, in light of downsizing, it was analyzing its office space needs with a view to cutting costs.

But, the decision to extend the lease was made in early August, according to testimony by Mrdjenovich, before that analysis was completed.

Commissioner Anne Crawford asked Morin Tuesday why there was a rush to extend the lease. Morin said he did not know, that he does not deal with the transaction at that level of detail.

The inquiry is adjourned until Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. Lawyers, including Groenewegen's attorney, Barry Chivers, are expected to begin their summations that day.