Executive Council
December 19, 2006

Premier Calls on Opposition to Act Responsibly and with Integrity

The Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, today called upon the Official Opposition to start acting with greater responsibility and integrity as they dispatch their public role, which is to provide fair, balanced and credible opposition.

On November 22, 2006, the House of Assembly passed a resolution to allow the Auditor General (AG) to review the circumstances surrounding government�s decision to purchase fibre optic lines for the province. This resolution was passed unanimously by the government members, while many of the opposition members rejected the motion. The Premier said government officials responded appropriately to the Auditor General�s request for Cabinet documents. Having been in government for more than 14 years, the Official Opposition is fully aware that providing access to Cabinet documents is not permitted by law.

"The Auditor General Act (Section 19) itself prohibits the disclosure of certain information to the Auditor General. Included in this prohibition is the disclosure of Cabinet confidences and information harmful to law enforcement (sections 18 and 22 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, respectively),� said Premier Williams. �While our government is fully committed to facilitating this review, we must nevertheless abide by the law. To provide Cabinet documentation would in fact break the act governing the office of the AG. The AG was assured that he will have access to all departmental documents which informed the preparation of the Cabinet documents. The AG made the request for Cabinet documents because the issue arose in his meeting with the Opposition house leader and the leader of the NDP, but he is quite aware that the law does not permit such access. The resolution of the House of Assembly calling on the AG to conduct an audit is welcomed by the government but the resolution on its own does not overturn the other applicable laws.�

The Premier said government took the extraordinary step of inviting the AG to review the files associated with this investment, because there is absolutely nothing to hide. �We have answered the same questions from the Opposition over and over again, and now they are asserting that we are trying to hide something from the AG in his review,� added the Premier. �This is wrong. The Official Opposition knows better. It is absolutely incredible to me that the same party that sat on a new transparency act for years, leaving it for our government to finally proclaim, now has the hypocrisy to accuse this government of hiding information�. The Premier added that the general public is fully aware of the previous administrations denying the Auditor General access to important information, and the Williams� administration stands proudly against that record.

�For the Leader of the Official Opposition, Gerry Reid, to continue his attack on a government investment that is supported by NATI, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities, Memorial University, College of the North Atlantic, the St. John�s Board of Trade and many, many others, is incredible. Our government made a $15 million investment that will save taxpayers, businesses and educational facilities hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a fact. The investment will greatly benefit rural communities, specifically along the south coast. That is a fact. It is time for the Opposition to stop with character attacks and petty, partisan politics, and to start supporting economic and rural development in Newfoundland and Labrador,� concluded the Premier.

Media contact:
Elizabeth Matthews
Director of Communications
Office of the Premier
709-729-3960, 351-1227

2006 12 19                               1:15 p.m.

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