Nfld. & Labrador

Dunderdale fires back over audit complaint

Kathy Dunderdale rejects complaints that her government has denied information to the auditor general over billions of dollars of infrastructure spending.
Kathy Dunderdale tells reporters in St. John's that Auditor General Wayne Loveys could have found the information he wanted through other means, although she did not identify any. (CBC )

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale rejected Thursday complaints that her government has denied critical information to the auditor general over billions of dollars of infrastructure spending.

"I think we're very open and transparent," Dunderdale told reporters at Confederation Building, a day after Auditor General Wayne Loveys revealed in his annual report that his staff was denied access to documents on a $5-billion infrastructure program.

Loveys wrote that the government has lately been applying a much broader definition of cabinet secrecy "than has been seen in recent memory."

But Dunderdale said government has nothing to hide, and said that Loveys had alternative ways of getting the same information — although she could not suggest any when reporters asked her to do so.

"I think there are other ways for him to get that information other than from cabinet documents ... here are reams and reams of information that's made available to the auditor general," Dunderdale said.

"Every piece of information that comes in to government is available to the auditor general. It's just the preparation of material used specifically for the preparation of cabinet documents is not available."

'Not many' documents excluded, premier says

Dunderdale also challenged Loveys' view on the volume of documents that fell under cabinet secrecy exclusions.

"There are not that many cabinet documents that [are] excluded," Dunderdale said.

Governments for decades have been able to use cabinet privilege as a means of protecting documents — including advice from bureaucrats, as well as deliberations of ministers themselves — that politicians wanted kept confidential.

Opposition politicians have gone on the offensive against the governing Progressive Conservatives over the auditor general's report, calling it the latest example where the government has refused public access to information and debate.

The Liberals and NDP have been deeply critical of Dunderdale's refusal to not open the house of assembly last fall.