N.B. tourism minister defends pricey trip to United Kingdom, France | CBC News

N.B. tourism minister defends pricey trip to United Kingdom, France | CBC News

New Brunswick’s tourism minister is defending a trip she and her top officials took to the United Kingdom and France that helped her deputy minister rack up a $77,000 travel bill last year.

Tammy Scott-Wallace said the trip last September included meetings with a number of tour operators and public relations firms in London and Paris that have contracts to market the province to potential visitors from the two countries.

“That’s incredibly important. It’s a good day’s work and it’s a good seven days’ work for me, I’ll tell you that,” Scott-Wallace said.

Her deputy, Yennah Hurley, sat next to her as she spent more than an hour responding to questions about the trip from Liberal MLA and tourism critic Isabelle Thériault during a meeting of the legislature committee studying budget estimates. 

As first reported by CBC News, Hurley’s expenses for the trip totalled $12,328, part of the $77,710 overall she claimed last year.

Liberal MLA and tourism critic Isabelle Thériault questioned Scott-Wallace about why the trip was necessary. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Scott-Wallace’s trip cost $10,199.

“What did it give the taxpayers of New Brunswick, that you went there for eight days?” Thériault asked.

“It’s really not clear what you did, except visit some places. Like, you have to face the music.”

Two other officials from the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture also made the trip.

Scott-Wallace acknowledged that no travel conferences or tourism trade shows were part of her schedule.

But she said it was important to meet with the tour operators and public relations firms hired to represent the province in the U.K. and France to rebuild connections frayed during COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“These are key markets for our province,” she said.

Departmental staff then “built an itinerary,” Scott-Wallace said, that included visits to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, the British Museum, the London Eye and the Palace of Versailles — all of them expensed to taxpayers.

WATCH | ‘You have to face the music,’ Liberal tourism critic says:

N.B. tourism minister defends pricey European trip

‘That’s a good day’s work,’ says Tammy Scott-Wallace, as she takes questions during a legislative committee session on her spending overseas.

The visits by her officials to the Palace of Versailles and Windsor Palace — which she pointed out she did not visit herself — provided insights into managing “built heritage,” the minister said.

New Brunswick has “similar sites, but on a smaller scale, absolutely,” Scott-Wallace argued.

“There are best practices all over the country, all over the world, and when we are there having meetings with stakeholders, it’s important we learn those best practices while we’re there.” 

She also said 45-minute tours offered at the British Museum in London could be a model for an abbreviated tour of the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John offered to cruise ship visitors.

She called the London facility “truly a new, modern-age museum, and I think the people of New Brunswick deserve to have a modern, state-of-the-art museum.” 

No one from the New Brunswick Museum was part of the London visit but it was set up at the suggestion of the Saint John museum’s staff, Scott-Wallace said.

The front of the British Museum
Scott-Wallace said tours at the British Museum in London could be a model for the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John. (British Museum/Facebook)

Thériault told CBC News she wasn’t satisfied with Scott-Wallace’s responses.

“I didn’t get clear answers,” she said.

Scott-Wallace said New Brunswick recorded 122,600 “visit nights” from French tourists in 2023, worth $11.6 million in revenue, and 121,000 from U.K. visitors, worth $18.2 million.

Trips to the province from the U.K. were up 23 per cent last year, compared to 2022, while trips from France were up 12 per cent. 

Asked if Premier Blaine Higgs or someone else approved the trip in advance, Scott-Wallace said such trips are normal for the department.

“It is budgeted for. It is part of the work that we do,” she said.

Related Articles