Fredericton — The ex-president of NB Liquor is defending his decision to authorize nearly $600,000 in extra bonuses paid to employees last year after disclosing the provincially run corporation had been using the wrong fiscal year-end.
In a statement issued Thursday, Brian Harriman said he couldn’t possibly be to blame for the expensive and easily avoidable folly because the NB Liquor Board of Directors didn’t properly vet him.
“It’s kind of embarrassing, but I can’t read,” admitted Harriman. “Most days when I went into work I just crossed my fingers and hoped that they’d only give me charts to look at so I could just point at stuff and nod. Seemed to work. Anything else I’d just say, ‘Where do I sign?’
“Signatures are easy because it’s just scribbling shit on a line — no one asks any questions.”
Nearly 20 per cent of New Brunswick adults have below-average literacy levels on the national scale. New Brunswick students are the only ones lagging behind the rest of Canada — with the exception of Manitoba, obviously.
“We have too many people unable to participate fully in society because of their low literacy skills,” said Linda Homer, executive director of the Literacy Coalition of New Brunswick. “And the ones who insist on participating can do some real damage when in positions of power.”
The New Brunswick Department of Finance released information late last week about the hefty bonuses paid to NB Liquor employees in 2018 after management lost track of when its fiscal year ended that year.
“Without the Board’s knowledge, the CEO mandated that bonuses be calculated and paid out based on the erroneous 53-week target,” concluded the review. Harriman maintains he thought he was signing off on a pizza party for Susan in payroll.
Harriman resigned in February to take a position as chief operating officer of Calgary-based cannabis producer Sundial Growers, so it is unclear what consequences if any may come for the former-president of the Crown corporation.
“What are they going to do, fire me?” asked Harriman. “I’m pretty sure going after someone who can’t read is discrimination.”
A spokesperson for the NB Liquor Board of Directors said in a statement: “Never assume a New Brunswicker can read, because when you assume, you make an ‘ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”