Inmate van crash secrecy leads to criticism of government
Premier David Alward promised more government openess in last election
Premier David Alward promised a more open government when he was elected in 2010, but New Brunswick has instead secured a reputation as one of most secretive provinces in Canada.
It took 18 months for the government to release documents to the CBC dealing with the crash of a sheriff's van that injured five people in 2012.
And last week Auditor General Kim MacPherson scolded three government departments for not properly reporting their activities to the public.
An openness study conducted last year by the University of King’s College in Halifax found New Brunswick and Quebec were the least likely of all the provinces to release information.
"We asked for briefing notes, and not one department that we asked for briefing notes from gave them to us," said Fred Vallance-Jones, an associate professor in the School of Journalism.
Alward made a big deal of transparency in the last election campaign as a way to contrast himself with Liberal Leader Shawn Graham's secret negotiations to sell NB Power.
"The Progressive Conservative government will provide you with an open and inclusive government," Alward said on election night. "We will not leave you on the outside looking in."
Justice Minister Troy Lifford refutes claims the government isn’t as transparent as it should be. But he is only now answering questions about the van crash following 18 months of departmental refusals.
"What I can tell you is that when I became minister and found out about this incident, immediately I asked the department to undergo a complete review of the policies that we do have in place," he told the legislature Wednesday.
Opposition Leader Brian Gallant says the government is too secretive, highlighted in this case by the van crash document stonewalling.
"The minister clearly doesn’t understand what the issue is," Gallant said. "The issue is lack of transparency."