New Brunswick

Tourism deputy rings up N.B. government's largest 2023 expense account

Luxury-hotel stays in Europe and moving costs to Fredericton were among expenses New Brunswick taxpayers covered for Yennah Hurley

Moving costs and an $800-a-night hotel help push Yennah Hurley's expenses over $77,000

Yennah Hurley
Despite being asked about promotions of New Brunswick in Europe, tourism deputy Yennah Hurley didn't mention a trip she and Tourism Minister Tammy Scott-Wallace made to London and Paris two weeks earlier. (CBC)

Luxury-hotel stays during an unpublicized trip to London and Paris and a personal move from Quispamsis to Fredericton helped deputy tourism minister Yennah Hurley, the former adviser to Premier Blaine Higgs, amass $77,710 in expenses in 2023.   

It's the largest amount claimed by a senior official in the New Brunswick government for the year, including the premier and cabinet ministers, according to online departmental expense reports.

New Brunswick releases information on expenses paid to ministers and senior government officials quarterly for travel, living expenses, car allowances, accommodations and other costs.  

It calls it an "effort to improve transparency, accountability and enhance the proactive disclosure of information."

In 2023, the largest amount claimed by an elected official for the calendar year was $52,522 by Higgs. That included $10,999 spent on a trip to Europe last May highlighted by Higgs's speech at the World Hydrogen Summit in the Netherlands.

Charges by the premier, however, were eclipsed by Hurley, whose expense claims ran nearly 50 per cent higher.

Hurley is a former small adventure business operator and travel blogger who has been New Brunswick's deputy minister of tourism since 2020.

Hotel Lumen
Hotel Lumen is less than one kilometre from the Louvre in downtown Paris. New Brunswick tourism officials spent half of an eight-day trip to Europe last September in the 39-room hotel, at an estimated cost of $600 a night per room. (Hotel Lumen)

She was hired in 2019 on a two-year consulting contract by Higgs to work in the Tourism Department and report directly to him on changes that might be made.

One change that came quickly was the firing of the previous deputy minister, Francoise Roy, a month after Hurley began work. Ten months later, Hurley had Roy's old job 

"I am proud that she is working with the people in the department," Higgs said in the legislature in 2019 in defending Hurley's initial hiring.

"I am proud that she is working with the minister because we are going to get things done by thinking differently. I am proud that she is part of the team."

In 2023, reports show, Hurley took several trips on government business both inside and outside Canada.

Expense reports contain little information on the purpose of trips, and Hurley was not made available for an interview.  However, her reports show $21,488 was spent on hotels in multiple locations, including Banff, Quebec City and North Carolina.

Palace of Verailles
Yennah Hurley paid to take a public tour of the Palace of Versailles during a visit to Europe and billed taxpayers $154.75 for it. (Chateau de Versailles)

According to information provided by the province, the most expensive trip, an eight-day visit to Europe last September was an effort to boost international tourism interest in New Brunswick.

It was also said to be for gathering information on tourism sites of significance that are recognized by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.

"The purpose of the mission was to discuss opportunities with international tour operators for visits to New Brunswick," Bruce Macfarlane, New Brunswick's senior director for media relations, wrote in response to a request for information about the trip.

"The mission also included site visits and meetings with UNESCO properties and museums with four nights in London and a four-night stay in Paris."

Four Tourism Department representatives went to Europe, according to Macfarlane, including Hurley and the minister, Tammy Scott-Wallace.

London Eye
New Brunswick taxpayers funded a number of activities for provincial tourism officials during an eight-day trip to London and Paris last September, including a ride on the London Eye. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

The group stayed at the Trafalgar St. James, a London hotel, before eventually moving to Hotel Lumen in Paris.

According to prices advertised online and expense reports submitted by both Scott-Wallace and Hurley, the hotels charge about $800 and $600 per night, respectively.

Hurley's expenses also included receipts for visits to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, an unspecified British museum, the London Eye, and the Palace of Versailles.  

There appeared to be no specific charges for business meetings during the eight days by either the minister or deputy minister. Hurley's expenses eventually totalled $12,328 with Scott-Wallace charging $10,199.

Isabelle Theriault, the deputy Liberal leader and opposition tourism critic, said she is surprised to hear about the trip.  

By coincidence last September, the Tourism Department was in front of the legislature's public accounts committee two weeks after Hurley returned from Paris, and Theriault questioned her about departmental efforts being made to promote New Brunswick in Europe.   

A woman with long black hair looking slightly off to the side
Liberal MLA Isabelle Thériault, the opposition tourism critic, says she finds it strange department officials did not disclose their European trip when she asked about promotions of New Brunswick being done there. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The trip was never mentioned.

"If I had known I would have asked questions about it," said Theriault.

"If they just came back from those regions in Europe why didn't they tell me, 'We went there to work on how to attract people from those regions.' But they chose not to tell."

Hurley's largest expense in 2023 was not travel-related. After her return from Europe, she sold her house in Quispamsis and moved to Fredericton, ending four years of commuting.

That move cost taxpayers a further $19,321.17 in relocation costs.  

Those included $15,000 for the real estate commission paid on the house Hurley sold, $3,550.67 for movers and $770.50 in legal fees.

According to the New Brunswick government's relocation policy, moving expenses for an existing employee are allowed at the discretion of a departmental deputy minister "if" the employee "is transferred."

Hurley was not transferred to a new job, and she did not take a loss on the sale of her home, which sometimes adds to relocation costs.

Real estate records show the house sold last October for $405,000, well above the listed asking price of $324,900.

Nevertheless, Macfarlane said it was determined Hurley did in fact qualify to have moving expenses covered and emphasized she did not approve her own claim. He declined to say who did.

"As outlined in the relocation policy, in no case can the Deputy Head authorize their own relocation expenses," wrote Macfarlane.

"Another designate approved the relocation expenses within the policy directive. Although we cannot talk about specific cases, the relocation expenses fell within the policy."


Robert Jones


Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.