February 8, 2017
For Immediate Release

Liberals Use ATIPP Exemption to Hide Snowclearing Overtime Cost Projections

Barry Petten, Transportation Critic for the Official Opposition, says, “The Ball Liberals – who made openness and transparency their number one priority prior to being elected – are now hiding their snowclearing overtime cost projections behind an ATIPP exemption.”

The Official Opposition submitted a request under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act for: “Any and all records related to projected costs of overtime for snow clearing personnel this year and the actual cost of overtime and related records for last year.

The Ball government responded that, while the actual cost of overtime for snow and ice control for the 2015-16 year was $4,245,119, they would not provide the information for the current year. Their response started: “Access to the remaining records, and/or information contained within the records, has been refused in accordance with the following exceptions to disclosure, as specified in the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the Act): 29. (1)(a) The head of a public body may refuse to disclose to an applicant information that would reveal advice, proposals, recommendations, analyses or policy options developed by or for a public body or minister.” Their reasoning? “The records requested were prepared as analyses for a public body or Minister and therefore constitute policy advice or recommendations as defined under subsection 29(1)(a) of the Act and therefore must be refused.

Petten said, “It is absolutely unbelievable that the Ball government would hide their budgeted snowclearing overtime cost projections for the current year. A cost projection is not a secret. It is a basic piece of budgeting information that the public and their elected representatives have a right to see and a responsibility to question. It is a basic principle of accountability that you ought to disclose what you expect to spend.”

The government made a major change to snowclearing operations in the 2016 Budget. In their “Detailed Expenditure Reductions for Budget 2016-17”, which they published with their 2016 Budget, they eliminated 24-hour snowclearing with the rationale that “This decision will make the program more efficient and/or effective” and achieve savings in 2015-16 of $1,936,000.

Petten said, “On what basis did they project a nearly $2 million net savings? We are questioning the government’s assumptions. We want to know how they arrived at their numbers. To do that, we need to see the records showing their projected costs of overtime for snowclearing personnel this year, and compare their projections with the actual costs. Why are the Ball Liberals hiding the information needed to compare their 2016 projections with their actual performance? So much for openness and accountability! Release the information now. Let’s see if they were warned about the consequences of cutting snowclearing operations the way they did.”

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Media Contact: Heather MacLean, Director of Operations and Communications
Office of the Official Opposition, (709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca