New Brunswick

Brunswick News blocked from publishing leaked document, agrees to binding consent order

The Higgs government went to court last week to block a provincial newspaper chain from publishing information from a leaked cabinet document, including financial details about New Brunswick’s biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

The document includes details of its industrial carbon-tax policy not released publicly

Brunswick News owns about a dozen newspapers in the province, including the Telegraph Journal and the Times & Transcript. (Gabrielle Fahmy)

The Higgs government went to court last week to block a provincial newspaper chain from publishing information from a leaked cabinet document, including financial details about New Brunswick's biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

The province wanted to prevent Brunswick News from reporting on the document, which includes details of its industrial carbon-tax policy not released publicly.

Justice Judy Clendening of the Court of Queen's Bench granted a temporary injunction Friday, according to public court filings.

But Monday morning, the province and the newspaper company agreed to a binding consent order in the case. The order hasn't been filed publicly yet so it's not clear if the newspaper can publish more stories.

In its application to the court, the government said it wanted publication blocked "to prevent damage to the legitimate public interest … and to the private interests of commercial entities."

Environment Minister Jeff Carr said in an affidavit that the clerk of the executive council told him that the Fredericton city police are investigating what he calls "the theft" of the document. (CBC)

Environment Minister Jeff Carr said in an affidavit the document contains "proprietary commercial information of many different private sector companies operating within the Province."

The industrial carbon tax, if accepted by Ottawa, would apply to the Irving Oil refinery and several large forestry mills in the province, including some owned by J.D. Irving Ltd.

J.D. Irving's co-CEO, Jim Irving, is also listed as the president of Brunswick News.

Jim Irving, J.D. Irving’s co-CEO, is also the president of Brunswick News. (CBC)

Carr said in his affidavit that the clerk of the executive council, Jean-Marc Dupuis, told him that the Fredericton city police are investigating what he calls "the theft" of the document.

Brunswick News editor-in-chief Wendy Metcalfe did not respond to a request for a comment.

The newspapers published a first story based on the document on June 12, focusing on how the Progressive Conservative's industrial carbon tax would affect NB Power's bottom line, including rates charged to customers.

The online version of the story included a detailed table showing the financial impact on the utility. Carr's affidavit said a reporter showed him the table before the story ran and he recognized it came from an addendum to a June 5 memorandum to executive council.

An online version of a story based on the leaked cabinet document was published on June 12. (Submitted)

Those confidential memos contain detailed information that ministers use when they formally approve legislation, regulations and policies.

The day after the initial story, Carr held a previously scheduled news conference about the industrial carbon price. A PowerPoint presentation for journalists did not include the detailed cost figures from the table published by the newspaper.

In its application, the province asked the court to not only stop the newspaper from publishing more stories but also order it to "destroy any copies" of the document.

Clendening's interim order from Friday blocked publication but did not order the destruction of the document.

The province's application said photos of the documents were taken by someone on an iPhone and sent to the newspaper. It said provincial editor Adam Huras told Carr that the newspaper planned to publish more stories about them.

That would "constitute intentional interference in business relations between [the province] and the commercial entities referred to in the said privileged/stolen documents," Carr's affidavit said.

Friday's court filings took place mere hours before Brunswick News's flagship newspaper, the Telegraph-Journal, won the Michener Award, the top Canadian prize for public-service journalism.

At the award ceremony Friday night, Metcalfe said without journalism, "secrecy would be rampant. Truth, trust, transparency would be scant."

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.