Moncton Wildcats contracts made public after challenge
City reverses earlier position, turns over documents requested under the Right to Information Act
The City of Moncton has reversed its earlier position and released all of its contracts with the Moncton Wildcats hockey team.
The decision follows an investigation by Anne Bertrand, the province's information commissioner, into a request for the documents by CBC News.
However, the city has now released the full content of the contracts requested under the Right to Information Act in May 2013.
The information commissioner calls the development a win for transparency.
"This is the kind of result we strive to obtain in each access to information complaint," said Bernard.
This is the kind of result we strive to obtain in each access to information complaint.- Anne Bertrand, information commissioner
In May 2013, CBC News used New Brunswick's Right to Information Act to ask Moncton, Saint John and Bathurst for their arena contracts with their QMJHL teams.
Saint John and Bathurst released the contracts, but Moncton refused, then eventually released partial versions.
The Irving-owned Moncton Wildcats told the city it objected to the release of the contract because it might affect its competitive position. At the time of the initial request, the Wildcats were in the process of negotiating a new agreement with Moncton.
Bertrand said the Wildcats couldn't make a legal case for withholding the information for competitive reasons and the city and team eventually agreed to release everything going back to 1999.
"The objections were not really forthcoming from the city," said Bertrand.
"They recognized our preliminary findings and worked very hard with the third party that this was the way of the world in New Brunswick and they were no exception."
Eventually, the contracts from 1999, 2003, 2006, 2010 and 2013 were released in full. In all, 109 pages were released, with the city acknowledging each "should not have been withheld."
"We are quite dedicated to being transparent, so I hope in the future we will be able to respond more positively from the get-go," said Barb Quigley, Moncton's city clerk.
The documents detail how the Wildcats business operates at the Moncton Coliseum, including information about concessions and how much money the city and the team receive.
The fully released documents put a dollar figure on how much the Wildcats must pay the city if it is still losing money on the team in 2016.
Last year, some councillors complained that the previous contract was costing taxpayers money, with the city spending more than it brought in.
The new contract requires the team to make payments to the city starting in 2016 if the city is not breaking even by then, but the maximum payment was blacked out when the contract was partially released last year.
The full version shows the capped amount is $15,000.
Wildcats owner Robert Irving respects decision
"We believe the release underlines our close and long-standing working relationship with the City of Moncton," said Irving.
"We will continue to work closely with the city to ensure the team's success on and off the ice, while continuing to contribute to Moncton's culture and sense of community."
The information commissioner says there is a lesson in the case for municipalities.
"All municipalities should look to the success of this complaint case as indicative of if you seek to refuse access to similar information when requested to do so under the legislation, you may run into a complaint and the commissioner's office will approach it in the same manner," said Bertrand.
And Bertrand said companies that sign contracts with public bodies can also learn from the case.
"When they do business with government, they can expect that a lot of their information will be made public," said Bertrand.
The information in the documents is mostly out of date now, but Bertrand said what's significant is Moncton's decision will be an example for other municipalities in the future.