On October 19th 2017, CBC held a political panel which consisted of Green Party Leader David Coon, Peoples Alliance of N.B Leader Kris Austin, and Progressive Conservative Brian MacDonald. The NDP leader was unavailable and the Liberal government responded to CBC saying “due to a confidentiality agreement I do not think we are in a position to participate” on the topic that was discussed.
The topic focused on the David Hay settlement story where he was the chairman of NB Power and received compensation four times his annual salary equaling $1.7M, and that amount was kept from the public for seven years.
The conversation focused around transparency in government, all three of the panelist agreed with the fact that New Brunswicker’s deserve the right to know what is happening. Especially with closed doors deal because it is taxpayers money!
David Coon made the best points stating “people have a right to know how their money is being spent” and when it comes to backroom deals, “we have a big problem with governments that say no this is none of your business New Brunswicker’s, this is a deal we cut behind closed doors and we are not going to tell you the details.”
Coon reminded us of the facts that in the end we the people are paying for this governments actions by saying “It’s not the managers, it’s not the politicians money that are paying out these settlements it’s the people of this province, and the people of this province have a right to know whats happening with their money.”
When it comes to David Hay he has yet to speak about the deal and David Coon spoke about when he was working for the conservation council and when they gave their perspective that it was not in the best interest of New Brunswicker’s, the premier then “went bananas” and spoke about how the government was “desperate” for the deal to go through and even tried to save the deal.
As for hearing from Hay on it the Green Party Leader said “there is a lot that perhaps David Hay knows and could tell us if he was not bound by a confidentiality agreement”.
The topic strayed away from the settlement by David Coon who spoke on what he experienced with the Liberal government when trying to get more information on other issues. One of which has been a major issue for the people of Miramichi, the P3 (public-private partnership) nursing home contracts that he wanted more details about.
Coon said when he asks about more information he is “running into this quite regularly with government”, referring to the fact that current government always responds that they are not at liberty to discuss things as they believe them confidential.
When Coon made a right to information (RTI) request on the contracts of the P3 nursing homes he was hit with roadblocks. First being given information that he said was “very badly redacted.” So he went the Right To Information Commissioner who did an investigation on the information and recommended that it be public.
Lisa Harris who is the Minister of Seniors and Long-Term Care then sent the Green Party Leader a letter stating “we are not going to provide the information that the commissioner said should be made public, we have legal advice otherwise.”
Coon then explained that the government hired a lawyer from Stewart McKelvey law firm to find out if they had to comply with the commissioners recommendation to release the information about the contracts to the public, and McKelvey allegedly told them that they did not need to make the information public.
CBC host then took the liberty of asking “don’t we have lawyers working for the government that could have given them that” information.
To which Coon responded that the Right To Information Commissioner is a lawyer!
Although it is not the same situation as the settlement the Green Party Leader said “it speaks to the drive in this government to keep information secret.”
In reality the information should be made available to the public to begin with Coon said, and when people do ask it should be released. So many RTI’s are being turned down that Coon says that people are going to the commissioner to do an investigation, all for the government departments to hire outside government lawyers to counter the commissioner.
All to keep the people of New Brunswick out of the loop of transparency!
CBC host points out it would be a great RTI on how much the government spent to get advice from an outside government legal firm.
David Coon speaks on his experience at 13:45 mark. To watch the full panel CLICK HERE.