Furey government making too many decisions in secret, say PCs

·3 min read
Interim Progressive Conservative Leader David Brazil says government needs to be more transparent in what it's doing. (Peter Cowan/CBC - image credit)
Interim Progressive Conservative Leader David Brazil says government needs to be more transparent in what it's doing. (Peter Cowan/CBC - image credit)
Peter Cowan/CBC
Peter Cowan/CBC

Opposition politicians say the provincial government is making important decisions in secret — including quietly creating a new committee headed by Brendan Paddick, a friend of Premier Andrew Furey.

Interim PC Leader David Brazil spoke with reporters Wednesday following a report from allNewfoundlandLabrador which said the Furey government is taking as long as half a year to share some of its decisions online.

Brazil focused specifically on part of the allNewfoundlandLabrador report which looked at the creation of the Churchill River Energy Analysis Team, a committee separate from the province's 2041 committee for the Upper Churchill, and one that isn't mentioned on the provincial government's website.

That committee is chaired by Paddick, a close advisor to the premier, and a fellow founder — along with Furey — of the Dollar A Day Foundation. Paddick is a former board chair for Nalcor Energy, and was picked by Furey to lead the province's rate-mitigation team.

Brazil said he's OK with Paddick heading the committee if he is a qualified candidate, but sees the committee as an instance of Furey giving a personal friend an opportunity behind closed doors.

He wants government to be more open about Paddick's role, to make sure there isn't a conflict of interest.

"We ask dozens of questions in [the House of Assembly] about discussions that were happening or rumours that we were hearing were happening, and got shut down," Brazil said Wednesday. "Why would you not be transparent? It's the people's asset here. Have an open discussion."

Brazil said Paddick's appointment is the latest in a series of decisions government has made to keep information out of the public eye.

In particular, he pointed to the Rothschild report — a rundown of how much the province's assets are worth that government won't share with the public — and the dismissal of Stephen Clark, the former head of the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information who was let go in February without public knowledge. The government wouldn't say whether his dismissal was the result of a massive cyberattack during which hackers stole private information and shut down most of the province's health-care systems.

Brazil also said government secretly created a committee on cybersecurity last year following the attack.

"When decisions are being made that will have an impact on the future of this province, the people of this province should know what's happening," Brazil said.

"Doing it behind closed doors makes you skeptical that there's more to what's happening than meets the eye, and we've found that in a number of things."

Curtis Hicks/CBC
Curtis Hicks/CBC

Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown also commented on the allNewfoundlandLabrador report through a news release Wednesday, calling on the Premier to be honest when it comes to the development of energy projects in Labrador.

"The Premier must be honest about his intentions … and when he's putting his buddies in positions of influence that will impact our future," Brown said in the release.

In a statement from the provincial government sent to CBC News, Furey said Brazil was only aware of the cabinet decisions because of his government's openness — while also defending Paddick's position on the panel.

"The people of Newfoundland and Labrador benefited greatly from the work of Mr. Paddick and the rate mitigation team as it delivered a $5.2 billion deal for our province that ensured power rates would not double due to Muskrat Falls," Furey said.

In the statement, Furey said his government enjoys regular debate in the House, ensuring openness while balancing privacy where necessary.

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