Ministers should implement recommendations of Right to Information

Fredericton – David Coon, Leader of the Green party of New Brunswick and MLA for Fredericton South is asking Ministers to comply with recommendations of the access to information and protection of privacy commissioner.

On October 11, Minister Harris refused to comply with the recommendations of the Access to Information Commissioner that she grant access to private-public partnership agreements for P3 nursing homes requested by Coon in a Right to Information request filed on November 1, 2016.

In June of 2016, New Brunswick Auditor General Kim MacPherson recommended the Department of Social Development provide proof that there is an economic benefit to establishing nursing homes using a public-private partnership, rather than the traditional non-profit model. No such proof was provided to the Public Accounts Committee this past week, when David Coon, a member of the committee, requested it, in following up the Auditor General’s recommendation.

“I filed my request for information, following the recommendation of the Auditor General, to see the actual costs of the P3 nursing homes. What was provided was extensively redacted, so I asked the Right to Information Commissioner to investigate. She concluded, the public has a right to this information, but the Minister wrote me this week to say she would not comply. This is the second time I’ve had a Minister refuse to comply with the Commissioner’s recommendations. A former Minister of Finance refused to comply with the recommendations to release a tax consultant’s contract, so I went to court and the judge ordered the information released,” said Coon.

“New Brunswickers expect that when the Access to Information Commissioner upholds their right to information, that they do indeed have a right to receive that information,” said Coon. “It is the responsibility of Ministers to comply.”

Under questioning by Coon at the Public Accounts Committee, Deputy Minister of Social Development Eric Beaulieu said his Department was provided external legal advice by the law firm Stewart McKelvey to support the Minister’s decision not to comply with the Access to Information Commissioner’s recommendations.

In 2015, Coon tabled amendments to the Procurement Act to require government to publish all contracts valued at over $10 000 in an on-line registry. The House adjourned before the amendments could be debated.

– 30 –