Bill 29 repeal is top Liberal priority, Dwight Ball says
Newly elected leader focuses on controversial access-to-information law
Minutes after winning Newfoundland and Labrador's Liberal leadership on Sunday, Dwight Ball said the first order of business for a Liberal government would be to repeal Bill 29.
The bill was controversial when it was introduced in 2012, and gives cabinet and the government increased powers in determining what information it can withhold from public view.
"This is the first step in ending the arrogance and restoring accountability," Ball told Liberal delegates Sunday during his acceptance speech.
"We will repeal Bill 29 and clean the dust of secrecy from government and all its institutions, including Nalcor Energy," said Ball, referring to the Crown corporation responsible for the Muskrat Falls megaproject.
Ball, who was interim leader of the party before stepping down to pursue the position permanently, said Bill 29 has undermined the public's trust in the government.
"The people of Newfoundland and Labrador are tired of being told what to think, they're tired of being told that they don't have a right to know what's going on inside their own government," he said.
"That's why, my friends, my first order of business for the new Liberal government will be to repeal Bill 29."
According to Ball, the Tory government has been using the controversial bill as a shield.
"I believe that as a cabinet right now that they really do hide behind Bill 29, and there's a lot of information that cabinet does use to make decisions that could be shared with people of this province," he said.
Ball said the Liberal caucus has been looking for information about the school board amalgamation that government said would save $12.8 million, but that they have yet to find any information that supports that number.
"There's no one in this province that has seen that, so that was a significant decision that was made by this government, and yet we don't have access to the information that they use to make that decision."
He said there is certain information that must remain private, but that taxpayers should have access to information about where their tax dollars are being spent.
"There's got to be amendments — of course we have to protect people's privacy, and there are certain amounts of information that governments do have to keep [private] … but we have to be open," Ball said.