Federal payment to J.D. Irving Ltd. questioned

A subsidiary of East Coast business giant J.D. Irving Ltd. has been given more than $40 million in funding from the federal government.

Atlantic Wallboard L-P -- which makes drywall products -- received the money over several years from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency under a much-vaunted shipyard redevelopment fund.

But an economics expert says the federal agency used "murky language" by calling the money conditionally repayable to describe what is effectively a subsidy.

Ian McAllister, who headed the regional development unit of the federal Finance Department in the early 1970's, is questioning whether this was done to skirt trade rules.

Records obtained by The Canadian Press through an access-to-information request show that the company has not been required to repay at least $35 million.