Duff Conacher slams Larry's Gulch report over lack of charges
Anne Bertrand defended her recommendation that charges not be laid in the Larry's Gulch incident
New Brunswick's information commissioner's decision not to recommend charges against two senior public officials involved in the Larry's Gulch list alteration scandal casts the entire province in a negative light, according to the founder of Democracy Watch.
Duff Conacher says the decision made by Anne Bertrand to not recommend charges is a fundamental problem and one that neglects the rule of law in New Brunswick.
"New Brunswick is far from being a democracy because in this case people did wrong, clearly violated the law and are not being prosecuted," Conacher said on Information Morning Fredericton.
"Therefore, New Brunswick does not have a rule of law therefore it is not a democracy."
On Monday, Anne Bertrand, the province's information commissioner, defended her recommendations that charges should not be pursued against two senior public servants who altered the 2013 guest list to the Larry's Gulch fishing lodge.
"I don't expect everyone to agree with me," she said.
"But I have carefully weighed the pros and cons for months on this case. I really believe, genuinely, believe the focus should not have been on charges, but rather on discussion and [to] put everyone on notice."
Conacher said Bertrand is sending the wrong message to other public servants.
"It says, 'Don't worry I'll protect you, I'm not a watchdog I'm a lapdog. I won't protect public interest I will protect public officials,'" said Conacher.
He said the decision not to name the public servants and not recommend charges encourages violations rather than discourage them.
"It's [unfortunately] fairly common across Canada to see these kind of rulings where people are let off the hook for wrongdoing that nobody would be let off the hook for if they did it in their business or if they were just a person being investigated by the police," he said.
'Very serious and troubling conclusions'
Tourism Minister Bill Fraser issued a statement on Monday afternoon about Bertrand's report and how the provincial government may respond.
"There are very serious and troubling conclusions contained in the report released by the right to information commissioner following her investigation," Fraser said in a statement.
"We are reviewing the report in its entirety to determine the most appropriate course of action."
Bertrand's report concluded the officials in question were acting on a request by Murray Guy, an editor at the Moncton Times & Transcript, who wanted some of his personal information removed from the list before it was made public by the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture under a right to information request in March of 2014.
Bertrand found Greg Lutes, the deputy minister of tourism, in concert with Darell Fowlie, the deputy minister for communications in the Office of the Premier, directed department staff to alter information found in an official government record.
"In other words, in order to hide the truth," the report, which was released on Thursday, states.