N.L. may release royalty info now blocked by Bill 29
Province will be 'in concert' with Ottawa, Dunderdale says
The Newfoundland and Labrador government could reverse a decision legislated last year and release details in the future on royalties paid to the provincial treasury.
"If there’s a reason to change it, if there’s a compelling reason to change it, I don’t have any problem with that," Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters at the Noia conference in St. John's on Tuesday.
"We’ll certainly look at it."
New federal transparency rules coming
Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in London that Canadian resource companies will soon have to disclose payments they make to governments here and abroad.
The new rules aim to "ensure that citizens in resource-rich countries around the world are better informed and benefit from the natural resources in their country," the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, Bill 29, passed a year ago, specifically blocked the release of details on natural resource royalty payments that accrue to the provincial treasury.
Only the total aggregate amount, not identifying specific companies, can be made public.
Dunderdale said the province will consider Ottawa’s plans.
"The federal government is looking into these regulations, to make sure that there’s no corruption, that companies are acting responsibly abroad," she said.
"We’re certainly going to have a look at what the federal government is doing, we’re going to be talking to them about that."
She said the Tory government excluded royalty payments from disclosure on the advice of the bureaucrat who reviewed access-to-information laws. However, the province fully accepted less than half of his recommendations — just 16 of 33.
In 2011-12, oil and mining royalties funnelled nearly $3.1 billion into Newfoundland and Labrador’s treasury. That accounted for almost half of the province’s own-source revenues that fiscal year.
Asked whether it was right that people could know how much a company like Husky pays to the government in Indonesia, where it also has interests, but not Newfoundland and Labrador, Dunderdale said: "We’ll be in concert with the federal government. We’re not going to find ourselves in conflict."
Changes 'in the best interests of the people'
She defended her government’s transparency record, which took a hit in the wake of Bill 29.
"Look, we’re not interested in keeping information private just for the sake of it. Anything we do around access to information is done in the best interests of the people of the province. Protecting commercial information sometimes allows us to get a better deal on the next set of arrangements."
The premier suggested her government gets a bad rap on the topic.
"So, if there’s ever a reason to change a particular access to certain types of information, we’re not opposed to that, despite the fact that motive is attributed to us on a regular basis," Dunderdale said.
The provincial government did not respond to initial CBC News inquiries on the topic last week.