Newspaper article The Canadian Press

N.L. Auditor Says Government Blocked Look at $5-Billion Infrastructure Plan: Spending Watchdog Says He Was Stonewalled

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

N.L. Auditor Says Government Blocked Look at $5-Billion Infrastructure Plan: Spending Watchdog Says He Was Stonewalled

Article excerpt

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Government stonewalling made it impossible to track how $5 billion in planned infrastructure funding was spent, says Newfoundland and Labrador's acting auditor general.

In a report released Wednesday, Wayne Loveys said five government departments refused to release documents on related projects, claiming they're protected because they would reveal cabinet deliberations.

Loveys said that's an overly broad interpretation of exemptions under provincial access to information laws.

"My view is that I am entitled to unrestricted access to the information required to conduct my work," he wrote in a 526-page report on various departments and provincial financial statements.

The Progressive Conservative government has been rapped by the provincial information commissioner in the past for misusing exemptions to withhold documents.

The provincial Justice Department told Loveys that all documentation "generated by departmental officials, supporting assessments and rankings of proposed infrastructure projects ... ultimately informs cabinet deliberations and decision making as part of the budget process. As a result, this information cannot be released."

Loveys says that kind of sweeping refusal "is of significant concern, not only for this particular review, but for the precedent-setting nature of the refusal."

Loveys goes on to argue that the government's interpretation "is not in keeping with the purposes of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, ...to make public bodies more accountable to the public."

He also described in exasperated detail his attempts to examine the joint federal-provincial regulator for offshore oil activity.

Loveys said he abandoned the review after the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board tried to restrict any public use of data that it deems privileged. …

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