N.L. government receives $5M review of public assets, won't commit to releasing it publicly

Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers aren’t able to see a new review of the province’s assets — even though it cost them $5 million. Finance Minister Siobhan Cody says it's because of commercially sensitive information in the report.

Opposition members criticize government transparency

Newfoundland and Labrador Finance Minister Siobhan Coady says the report by Rothschild and Co. is the first comprehensive review of public assets in the province's history. (Mike Simms/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers aren't able to see a new review of the province's assets — even though it cost them $5 million.

In a statement, the provincial government called the report, performed by multinational bank and financial services company Rothschild and Co., "the first comprehensive review of assets in the province's history." Finance Minister Siobhan Coady said Monday the provincial government can't release the report because it contains "commercial sensitivities."

"We wouldn't want to give information that would in any way impede the value to the people of the province," Coady said. "We'll review the report, make any determinations as to what's in there. As to the commercial sensitivity of it I will say we really want to make sure we're protecting the assets of the people of the province."

The government commissioned the review following last year's report by the premier's economic recovery team, which recommended selling some provincial assets. 

Coady said the government has been focused on the provincial budget, scheduled to be released Thursday, and still has to review the contents of the Rothschild report. She said no decisions have been made about any assets considered in the review.

Opposition calls for better transparency

During question period, interim PC Leader David Brazil criticized the government for not releasing the Rothschild report, and for what he said was its lack of transparency on the cyber attack on the province's health-care system last fall. Though it's been about five months since the attack, the government still hasn't revealed key details, like the nature of the attack or the perpetrators, citing security concerns.

Coady didn't say how long it would take for the government to review the Rothschild report, only saying it would be done as "expeditiously as possible." She also wouldn't commit to releasing parts of the report that aren't commercially sensitive.

Interim NDP Leader Jim Dinn says he wants to know if any public assets are on the chopping block. (Mike Simms/CBC)

Interim NDP Leader Jim Dinn said he'd like to know what commercially sensitive information Coady is referring to, calling the reasoning a "red herring."

"We've spent another $5 million in public money, in public funds to commission this report on determining what public goods, what public agencies that are built by the people of this province are now going to be sold," he said. "To turn around and say, 'Well, sorry, we can't do that because of commercially sensitive information' is really tone deaf."

Dinn said he'd like to see what assets are being considered for sale. 

"I would like to know what's on the block here, as simple as that."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador