Kelvin Parsons, Opposition Justice Critic and MHA for the District of
Burgeo-Lapoile, says he is extremely frustrated with governmentís refusal to
be open and accountable and follow the spirit and intent of the Access to
"Our office recently submitted several Access to Information requests for
ministerial travel," said Mr. Parsons. "While we received spreadsheets
outlining these expenses, most departments did not provide the documentation
that shows why the expenses were incurred and for what goods or services.
After the media reported on a couple of ministerís less than favourable
spending habits, government has now thrown roadblocks to prevent any further
information from being released.
"For example, the Department of Human, Resources, Labour and Employment
completed a spreadsheet for travel and expenses for Parliamentary Secretary
Dave Denine. Our analysis of this document raised some serious concerns
about some of these expenses incurred. Our office requested the supporting
documentation and was advised we would receive it within a matter of days.
Since the media reports on government travel and expense claims, the
department is now refusing to release these documents unless fees for
compilation time and photocopies are paid, fees that were not being charged
two weeks ago. These fees are being charged even though the information was
already retrieved and ready for distribution. They have decided to charge
fees after the fact in an effort to stifle the Oppositionís efforts to get
"As an Opposition, we have to wonder what is contained in these travel
claims that government does not want us to see. What expenses have been
incurred by Parliamentary Secretary Dave Denine that would suddenly force
government to charge fees in an effort of discouraging access to this
information. If there was nothing to hide, why not release these documents?
"It is fine for government to charge fees when they are warranted.
However, in this case the fees were charged after the fact and after a
negative story on travel expenses appeared in the provincial media. Is this
the manner in which this government is going to conduct their openness and
accountability? Do they plan to be selective and only release information
that will not be damaging to government? If the Minister of Justice examines
this process he will no doubt recognize that his government is defeating the
spirit and intent of the Access to Information Act and is therefore doing a
disservice to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. If this government is
willing to stifle the Opposition, what will it mean for other citizens in
this province looking for information?"