08 MAY 2014
In a decision dated May 6, 2014, Madam Justice Clendening has ordered the Minister of Finance to comply with the recommendations of the Access to Information Commissioner and release the contracts and studies relating to shale gas royalties to Green Party Leader David Coon.
In February of 2013, Coon requested copies of contracts the Department of Finance had signed with consultants to examine shale gas royalties for the Province, along with copies of the consultants' reports. Finance Minister Blaine Higgs refused to release the documents, so the Green Party Leader filed a complaint with the Access to Information Commissioner. She recommended that the documents be released. Higgs refused to accept her recommendations, so the Green Party leader appealed to the court.
In her decision, Judge Clendening upheld the recommendations of the Access to Information Commissioner and ordered the Minister of Finance to comply, with two exceptions. She concluded that the names of the consultants and their per diems are protected under the province's Right to Information Act and required the names and per diems to be redacted from all documents.
"I am pleased that Madam Justice Clendening has upheld the recommendations of the Access to Information Commissioner, and the public's right to know," said Green Party Leader David Coon. "However, there is clearly a flaw in the Right to Information Act which must be corrected. If we are to avoid governments hiring consultants who have a potential conflict of interest that could bias their work, their names must be on the public record. To rectify this, the Green Party will introduce a Sunshine Law following the election to require that all contracts with the government of New Brunswick be posted on-line," said Coon.