Wiseman sidesteps questions on flip flop

Rob Antle
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Government Minister suggests article did not outline response

Business Minister Ross Wiseman is sidestepping questions about why the provincial Tories have changed their minds on what taxpayers should know about government-led negotiations, suggesting instead that The Telegram did not give his department a fair shake in a recent story.

"I think the article in the paper should have reflected the fact that our office did reply a response," Wiseman said at a media scrum this week.

Ross Wiseman

Business Minister Ross Wiseman is sidestepping questions about why the provincial Tories have changed their minds on what taxpayers should know about government-led negotiations, suggesting instead that The Telegram did not give his department a fair shake in a recent story.

"I think the article in the paper should have reflected the fact that our office did reply a response," Wiseman said at a media scrum this week.

"There's a written response provided and that written response provides a detailed laying out of our response to the question at hand and so the letter is self-explanatory and the letter responds to the issue that was being posed by that article."

However, the article in question did quote from the letter mentioned by Wiseman.

In fact, the first reference to the letter came in the story's second paragraph.

The full letter is now posted with the electronic version of this story on The Telegram's website.

Last week, Wiseman declined interview requests.

This week, The Telegram caught up with him at a speech he gave in St. John's.

Wiseman's department previously indicated it will ignore a recent report from the government's openness watchdog.

After a review that dragged out for nearly two years, the information commissioner recommended the department provide most of the records requested by The Telegram related to two failed negotiations.

Those talks were aimed at luring two businesses to the province.

In the letter outlining the department's decision, deputy minister Ray Dillon wrote confidentiality is "paramount" when it comes to negotiations with businesses seeking to set up shop in the province.

Dillon wrote that "the department's policy remains that it will neither confirm nor deny whether it is in negotiations with a client."

But that stand contrasts with comments made by Premier Danny Williams - then the Tory Opposition leader - in 2002, during a debate in the legislature on the open-records laws.

At the time, Williams said "there should be more disclosure to the public" about such talks.

"We feel that for an open, accessible, accountable and transparent government, as espoused by (then-premier Roger Grimes), there should be, in fact, open negotiations. By that, I do not mean that every single part of the negotiation has to be disclosed, but the people of this province have a right to know what the parameters of the negotiations are. They have a right to know what the government is seeking to accomplish."

The Department of Business now contends it cannot even reveal the existence of negotiations, much less what those talks entail.

The exact same part of the law Williams criticized in 2002 as being too secretive is among the clauses his government is currently using to block access to the records.

Recommendations made by the transparency watchdog are not binding.

Both the information commissioner and The Telegram have the right to file an appeal at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.

There is a 30-day deadline to do so.

rantle@thetelegram.com mclarkson@thetelegram.com

Department of Business Reponses to Commissioner's Reports.pdf

Organizations: The Telegram, Department of Business, Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court

Geographic location: St. John's

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Recent comments

  • I C Clearly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    More hypocrisy? Why am I not surprised?

  • Pierre Neary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Nothing new here. This is the most secretive administration (what purple files?? by the way the same comunication director was the recipient of a healthy raise recently) we have ever seen and of course as usual Minister Wiseman seems to have not read the briefing notes. The amount of broken election promises by the Premier is astounding to say the least. Time for the voters to look through the smoke and mirrors.

  • I C Clearly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    More hypocrisy? Why am I not surprised?

  • Pierre Neary
    July 01, 2010 - 19:58

    Nothing new here. This is the most secretive administration (what purple files?? by the way the same comunication director was the recipient of a healthy raise recently) we have ever seen and of course as usual Minister Wiseman seems to have not read the briefing notes. The amount of broken election promises by the Premier is astounding to say the least. Time for the voters to look through the smoke and mirrors.