By André Faust
It was a triumph day for New Brunswick Green party leader David Coon when Justice Judy Glendenning ordered the reluctant Alward government to release that shale gas royalty report. David Coon first requested the documents in February of 2013 to have the documents released to him from finance Minister Blaine Higgs. It appears that Higgs was prepared to release only the superficial contents of the report not the meat of the report.
Justice Judy Glendenning ordered Higgs to provide all documentation relating to that shale gas royalty system except the information regarding the identities of and the amount paid to the consultants because it was seen as personal information which is exempt from disclosure. David Coon did, however pointed out that there is a flaw with the right to information and protection of privacy act.
If the Green party is successful to have an MLA elected to office the Green party will introduce a member’s bill to ensure that contracts are posted online.
The Alward government had the opportunity during the last four years to correct the flaw in the right to information and protection of privacy act, however, the Alward government elected not to do so. By not doing so is a way of impeding transparency of government. This in effect prevents New Brunswickers from knowing who the stakeholders are in the financial gains created for the money people. From what is currently known the royalty system in New Brunswick is quite different than the royalty system in the province of Alberta, in Alberta royalties are paid on the high producing wells, whereas in New Brunswick royalties are paid out on the lowest producing wells this does appear to be a sellout and short changing New Brunswickers.
According to David Coon,” if we are to avoid government hiring consultants who have the potential conflict of interest could bias their work; their names must be on the public record.”
It has been struggle for the Green party leader to access the reports from finance Minister Blaine Higgs, and as a last resort Coon had to petition appeal court to get access to the documents.