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“Serious concerns” about handling of Larry’s Gulch documents

FREDERICTON N.B.- An internal review says there is “serious concern” about the handling of government documents during a Right to Information request.

Edith Doucet, the Clerk of the Executive Council, completed the review after an order came down from Premier Brain Gallant last week. The review followed allegations that the guest list at provincially-owned fishing lodge “Larry’s Gulch” was altered to remove the name of a former editor with Brunswick News.

Doucet’s report found evidence of a link between former Premier David Alward’s office, the department of tourism, and NB Liquor.

In April of 2014, an unnamed staffer in the department of tourism contacted a former employee at the Premier’s office. In the email, the Tourism employee suggested that the Premier’s office contact officials at NB Liquor, and advised them to refuse to disclose the names of their guests, for competitive reasons.

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And that is just what happened.

On April 25, 2014, the Deputy Minister at the Department of Tourism received an email from the Senior Vice President of Alcool NB Liquor, stating: “We believe that releasing the names of the guests that attended under ANBL’s invitation may harm the competitive position of ANBL and these guests moving forward. Due to this, we refuse to disclose this information under section 22(1)(c) of the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act.”

Because of that email, details of NB Liquor’s booking were revised and not included in the second version of the guest list released by the department of tourism.

Doucet says this review has “raised a number of areas of serious concern.” She continues that it is essential that the government ensure that the “values of integrity, impartiality, and competence” are upheld.

In a statement, Attorney General of the new Liberal government, Serge Rousselle says his government needs time to review the document.

“On the surface, as I have said before it raises serious concerns,” says Rousselle. “Government will take the time to review the recommendations and respond in the days to come.”

Bruce Fitch, leader of the official opposition, said an independent review of the issue should follow.

“The Official Opposition acknowledges the timeliness with which this internal review was completed. We continue to support an independent review of this issue and agree with the recommendation that the matter be referred to the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner.”

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