New Brunswick

Ex-judge's detailed mission for property assessment review remains guarded

The New Brunswick government has no plans to release anything further on the terms of reference former Court of Appeal justice Joseph Robertson has been given to investigate what went wrong with property assessments this year, even though Premier Brian Gallant promised to do just that last week.

Full terms of reference for Justice Joseph Robertson haven't been made public in 10 days since announcement

Premier Brian Gallant says he doesn't want to talk about property tax assessments, since a former judge is reviewing what went wrong with them this year. (CBC)

The province has no immediate plans to release anything further on the terms of reference former Court of Appeal Justice Joseph Robertson has been given to investigate about what went wrong with this year's property assessments, even though Premier Brian Gallant promised to do just that last week.

Gallant announced on April 3 he was appointing Robertson to conduct an independent review of a property tax scandal that has dogged his government for the past month. 

As part of that announcement, the government issued a news release, also on April 3, outlining Robertson's assignment in general terms.

But three days later Gallant said the specific terms of reference were still being hammered out and the public would be given details later.

"The terms of reference will be made public and they're not prepared yet, but we did give you the highlights of the terms of reference within the announcement on Monday," Gallant told reporters last Thursday.

"But when are they being made public?" asked one reporter.

"Whenever they're done, so I'm not sure when they'll be finalized," Gallant said.

No further information

No further information has been released on Robertson's specific terms of reference since.

The province has not said whether the terms have been finalized and on Wednesday Sarah Bustard, a Service New Brunswick spokesperson, said there were no immediate plans to add anything to the initial announcement from April 3, which is now 10 days old.

I'm not going to do the review through media.- Brian Gallant

"The terms of reference for Justice Robertons's review were outlined in the news release from April 3," wrote Bustard in an email to CBC News.

"Any changes or additional terms to the review will be communicated with the public."

Bustard did not respond to a question about the premier's April 6 promise to release the actual terms of reference.

A request to see the specific mandate given to Robertson, if there is one yet, went unanswered.

Justice Joseph Robertson has been asked to review the property tax assessment problems that have engulfed the provincial government this spring. (Canadian Lawyer)
At a Maritime premiers meeting in Saint John on Wednesday, Gallant said he had no more comment to make on the property tax matter.

"Look, I'm not going to do the review through media," said Gallant.

"We think Justice Robertson should be given the time that he is needed to be able to do the review and everything will be made very clear and the light will be shed on everything that happened here."

A key issue in the property assessment review is whether Robertson will have the specific mandate to investigate the role the premier's office played, if any, in accelerating the adoption of a new assessment system that eventually caused a number of problems.

The premier's office has denied any role in pushing for that acceleration — blaming it on Service New Brunswick — but internal Service New Brunswick documents obtained by CBC News suggest the premier himself requested it.

The terms of reference "highlights" for Robertson's review released April 3 do not specifically mention the need to investigate the decision to adopt the new assessment system.

However, it does say the review should look at "factors related to timing and deadlines" and "changes to the assessment process and procedures over the last seven years," which may cover the topic.


Robert Jones


Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.