January 30, 2018
For Immediate Release

Government’s Business Investment Process a Complete Mess

Jim Lester, Opposition Critic for Lands and Wildlife, said he was shocked to see the CBC News report on how a biofuels project planned for Botwood fell apart amid administrative chaos.

Internal government emails show that even the government’s senior officials recognized the system was in complete disarray.

· Officials of the Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture department told the proponent in early 2016 that they could not afford to send anyone to tour a Tennessee operation to evaluate the proposed biofuel technology.
· But Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation Minister Chris Mitchelmore did tour the Tennessee operation and signed an agreement in May 2016. However, three months later, at least two senior government officials managing the proposal were unaware of that tour. In an email, Minister Mitchelmore’s deputy minister told an assistant deputy minister: “It seems everyone is in on this file except you and I,” and concluded “Oh my.”
· In another email, the deputy minister wrote: “This file is one of those too many dept. involved ones.”
· A senior department official wrote: “I think this just highlights the need for leadership on major projects so that we have a clear, well-understood path forward by government and proponents on these projects.”

Lester said, “A clear lack of leadership on major economic development projects is the crux of the problem, just as the senior officials recognize. Internal chaos is preventing proposals from proceeding in a smooth and timely manner from conception to fruition, and that could be costing our province significant growth and job creation opportunities at a time when our economy is shrinking.”

“The buck stops at the Cabinet table, where the Premier and his Ministers haven’t been able to figure out how to get their act together to grow our province’s economy. Instead of making the organization work effectively, they have been shuffling departments, slicing away layers of senior management and then backfilling positions with Liberal patronage appointees, creating dysfunction and disarray. Instead of making things work better, the Liberals have created a mess where nothing is working well– and it’s the province that is suffering. While other provinces across this country are growing, ours under the Ball government is losing opportunities hand over fist,” said Lester.

In light of news of another development partnership proposal in Botwood, Lester is urging the Liberal government to get its act together. “Having mishandled proposals in the past, the government needs to learn from its errors, show some leadership, get organized, establish a clear and direct decision chain, and support job and growth opportunities.”

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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